Monday, May 21, 2012

For Our Greater Good

Beyond a doubt, Joseph was a beloved son. Reading his story in Genesis 37-50, I can't help but think how Joseph would make a great guest on any talk show if he were alive today. The title of the TV program might go something like this: From the Pit to the Palace. Joseph's story begins much like ours. He came into this world an innocent child. He didn't ask to be born. Joseph, like any of us, deserved to be cared for, loved, and nurtured by his parents. On the other hand, so did Joseph's brothers. But in the eyes of their father, they were second best to Joseph. The rejection of their father caused terrible sibling rivalry until one day Joseph's brothers threw him into a pit. While Joseph's brothers were eating supper and discussing what to do with him, the opportunity of a lifetime arose. A caravan of Midianites passed their camp on the way to Egypt. Seizing the opportunity, the brothers sold Joseph as a slave for twenty pieces of silver. In U.S. money, that amounts to about $1.28. Is that where you are right now, friend? Have you been rejected by someone and thrown into the pit? Don't fear. You're not lost. God has not abandoned you. He knows your whereabouts. He is using your circumstance as a stepping-stone for a greater plan just as He did for Joseph. Several years later during a life-threatening drought, many traveled to Egypt to buy grain, including Joseph's brothers. It was Joseph who had foretold the drought and prepared Egypt for survival. By now, he had been promoted to second in command in Egypt. In his powerful position, Joseph could have taken revenge on his brothers for betraying him. Instead, he chose to forgive them and reunite with his family. As his brothers bowed before Joseph in fear of their lives, Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." This verse is often compared to Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." When you and I let down those walls of fear and trust God for the greater good, we'll find a measure of healing and restoration just as Joseph did. Instead, we often want to cling to the pain. That kind of thinking only keeps us in the pit and allows our wounds and fears to fester and grow. God has so much more for us. What was meant for evil in your life, God wants to use for your good. The Lord wants to bring you and me out of the pit and place us in His palace. The choice is ours. We can focus on our bad experience and miss the joy that can be ours. Or, like Joseph, we can take the risk, venture out, forgive those who hurt us and truly believe that God has a greater good in His plans for our future.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve!

“This new year had better be better than last year!” “Maybe I will meet the love of my life this year.” “Maybe this year I will have true friends.” “Maybe this year I won’t screw up my life AGAIN.” “Maybe this year I won’t be such a failure.” “Maybe this year no one I love will die.” “Maybe... Just maybe this will be my year….”

These were just some of my new year's thoughts as a young child and a young adult.

The new year was a FRESH start, a new hope – a new beginning to this life that I so frequently messed up or regretted.

I anxiously anticipated “ringing in” the new year! I celebrated at midnight with great relief that the past year was FINALLY OVER.

Today…I read on facebook about all the great plans people have and their anticipation for the new year, but I don’t seem to care. I don’t care that it’s New Year's Eve. I don’t care that it’s a new year.

I am asking: Why?

Since I truly fell in love with Jesus Christ, every day… every minute… every breathe is a new day, a new year, a new start, a new beginning in Him!

I don’t need a new calendar year to begin again. I'm not in bondage to man's timing. I don’t need a party to start over.

ALL I need is the Truth that sets me free! Jesus!

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free! John 8:32

So...when you feel crushed, when someone you love dies, when you fail, when you hurt someone, you can CHOOSE life. Embrace a new beginning every day! Choose a new start in the love of Jesus!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ministry Encouragement!

Hey friends!

Please take 15 minutes to watch these 4 videos and read the passages from James below. (Who doesn’t love music?!) These songs are all written by Christian artists who participated in missions overseas in third world countries, and God changed their hearts as a result.

Sara Groves – I Saw What I Saw

Meredith Andrews – What It Means to Love

Brooke Fraser – Albertine

Swoope ft. Lecrae, Tedashii, and Jai – Actions Speak Louder

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-16

‎“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 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 1:22-27

Also, take a few minutes to read through this article from The Resurgence with practical ideas about how to do missional living. Perhaps you can incorporate this into your devotional time!

I am sure that many of you who have been on mission trips or participated in urban mission projects have had similar experiences! I can’t help but thank God for all of the work that He is doing in other parts of the world. He invites us to join in with that work. Pray and consider how you might be able to minister to the lost, broken, hurting, sick, poor… anyone who might need love.

Maybe you are that broken person looking for some love today. Read this passage and be encouraged!

“The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’ The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. For the Lord does not abandon anyone forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion according to the greatness of his unfailing love.” Lamentations 3:22-26; 31-32

Even if you aren’t able to go overseas and serve, you are called to love people in your town, in your workplaces, in your families, in your church, and to share the gospel every chance you have. Engage the church, engage the city. Sometimes that takes sacrifice of time, money, gifts, and yourself. It requires that you live unselfishly and realize that you are part of something bigger than yourself-God’s plan of redemption! I encourage you to consider how you might love as Jesus first loved us. Share the gifts that He has given to you with others! Live out the gospel in your daily life. Let’s seek to glorify God with our entire beings and lives!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2011 New Years Resolutions!

At this time of year, many of us are thinking about making New Year's Resolutions to change things that haven't been working for us for in a long while. Have you made a list of the ways in which you’d like to change your behavior and the choices you make each day?

Make a commitment to the “New You” and the world will quickly start feeling quite different. You might need some help in staying motivated to manifest your dreams, so recruit a Success Team – a group of friends, family, or colleagues who can help you stay focused and accountable, and who will cheer you on towards your goal.

Work on an Action Plan, or a road map for this new journey that you are about to take. Include a timeline so that you know how long each part of the plan will take to manifest, and when you will eventually reach your goal. Celebrate each successive step by giving yourself little rewards along the way. It will make the journey so much more fun, and will definitely keep you motivated!

Here is my list of New Years Resolutions!

1. Read through the entire Bible.
2. Exercise 3 days a week for an hour.
3. Find a part time job that I enjoy.
4. Read 1 book a month not related to school.
5. Cook at least 3 times a week.
6. Take more pictures and use them in scrapbooks.
7. Relearn how to play the flute, piano, and guitar.
8. Brush up on Spanish and Sign Language.
9. Go on at least 2 mission trips.
10. Use my dancing background in ministry.
11. Make all A's in the rest of my seminary classes.
12. Travel to at least 3 states I have never been to.
13. Memorize Romans and Philippians.
14. Save more, spend less.
15. Spend more time with friends and family.
16. Give more time and money to help people in need.
17. Donate things that I am not using.
18. Compliment someone at least once a day.
19. Love everyone as Jesus first loved me.
20. Fall more in love with Jesus every day!

There you have it! I plan to post them on my bathroom mirror so I am reminded of them every time I brush my teeth!

What are your New Year's Resolutions? How do you plan to stick to them?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You Are Here

The world is filled with bad news and desperate situations. The natural response is to want to do something, to go and help. To make a difference. To save a life.
Sitting in your cubicle or your lecture hall or your bedroom, life as you know it cam sometimes seem meaningless. Especially when you compare your life with the lives of those who are in need. After all, when so many people are dying every day, crunching numbers on a computer screen can seem unimportant.
Have you ever noticed that those desires to "go and help" always involve going to a faraway land where life is totally different from here? What is it about our desires to just do something that inevitably take us away from home into desperate and horrific situations demanding a hero? Is there a dash of escapism and savior complex mixed in with our altruism and compassion?
I am definitely in support of foreign missions and I support those who give their lives for the sake of sharing the gospel of Jesus in other countries. However, missions abroad can become an attempt to disconnect from anything and anyone familiar. It's as if by escaping the ordinary, life will automatically become extraordinary. What are we running from? Behind the banter of good deeds is a common desire to prove something, not just to others, but to ourselves. We all want to be different, to see evidence we're not just another number out of the 6 billion on Earth, and to know we're really alive. Is flying 9,000 miles to Zambia and feeding starving children the best way to go about meeting those inner needs?
For many in our generation, television and movies and the Discovery Channel have created a need in us for extreme experiences. When you add to that the ease with which we can take short-term mission trips abroad (now a standard for all youth groups), and our culture's emphasis on the big and heroic, it all leads to an inevitable disappointment with "normal" life.
We sometimes think only of Pakistan or Kenya as fertile ground for "going out and making a difference." Heroism belongs at least as much in the little town or big city where you grew up as it does in exotic locations.
It's not by chance that God used the word neighbor in His second greatest commandment in Matthew 22:39-"Love your neighbor as yourself." That means the people on your beaten path. If your path happens to lead to the Philippines or Haiti, by all means serve God and love people there. More likely, your beaten path looks more like an ugly brick office building, your 10 year old car, or even your parent's house.
If you can't be extraordinary in your ordinary life, with your own neighbors and family, it's highly unlikely that you'll amount to much, no matter what baby orphan you have kissed. Stop, and know the people on your path.
We are a transient people addicted to newness. New media, new fashion, new stories, and even new friends. Connecting to those who live, work, worship, and play near us requires us to learn to listen. We need to stop looking for the new and become even more familiar with the already familiar.
If you ask most pastors today what they would like from the committed Christians in the congregation, one of the things you would probably hear would be a call for people to get to know each other deeply. Do you know the people in your church, your neighborhood, and your city? Have you really listened to them or committed yourself to knowing them beyond the surface level? Churches need people who are not just there to sing some nice songs, hear a funny sermon and head out afterward for lunch with friends. Hang out with people from every generation. Get involved in a small group where people actually get to know each other and meditate on God's words.
Need some ideas? Play all-church hide-and-seek. Have choir practice in a nearby park with a picnic afterward. Do hip-hop dance in a retirement home. Organize an ultimate frisbee tournament. Get some friends together to decorate the educational rooms. Stage an all-night prayer event for local and global issues. Organize a Read Through the New Testament Day and read the whole book out loud. Have a chili cook-off. Make a point of building community.
Don't just commit yourself in your church-dig into your neighborhood. Invite your neighbors over, even the weird ones. Run for a position in city government. Organize a neighborhood block party. Join the Rotary Club. Find out if there is a community-supported agriculture near you and take a bunch of people along to volunteer and get some great fresh food out of it. Help out a 4-H club. Organize a Free Hug Day. Go without electric lights in your home for a week and have people over for candlelit dinners or poetry reads. Buy a pizza and take it to the park where the people who sleep on the street hang out. Eat with them.
All of these things avoid the "holy huddle" mentality that plagues a lot of U.S. churches. When we are engaged and connected in the life of our place, we can really know and be known by the people we seek to serve and reach out with good news. Don't wake up one day and realize you can't remember the last time you had a friendly conversation with someone who didn't use the words "Praise the Lord!"
When the people came to John the Baptist and asked what on earth they should do with themselves now that they had been dunked in a river and heard about a Messiah on the way, he didn't tell them to go off and volunteer in an Ethiopian refugee camp. He told them to give away their extra food and shirt. He told government people and soldiers to stop cheating people and accusing people falsely. He didn't tell anyone to quit their job. What would he tell you to keep on doing? How could you do what you do, and do it better?
Perhaps you complain about your job to your coworkers and roommate. Maybe there is someone who drives you crazy at work, or someone who does strange things. Challenge yourself to treat computer geeks, homosexuals, coupon-clipping ladies, and horribly muscular bodybuilders all the same. There are very few people who are actually "normal." Abnormal is normal, so act accordingly.
Probably even more challenging than living well in your work is to live well in your own home. Love your wife, husband, parents, or roommates. Respect them. Be considerate and submissive to them in little way, like doing the chore they hate doing and asking for forgiveness when you aren't loving. Hug them everyday. Speak highly of them to others. Honor them throughout life.
When you're overhauling your daily life, take time to examine your spending habits. Stop caring about money-that will make you radical indeed. Maybe you spend money on things you don't need, like jewelry, Wii games, or shoes. Make a budget that includes giving away money, and stick to it. Thank God you don't have more money to stress you out. Surprise someone by buying them a meal. Look how God takes care of the dandelions and the pigeons-surely He will take care of you, too.
Rest, don't vegetate. Ask yourself what you do to turn off your brain, and cut back on it. Turn off the TV or computer more. Go for walks. Sit outside at night. Read for three hours some afternoon. Plan ahead to have a retreat day. Sleep. Pray.
There are plenty other things you can do to change the world, the world that in other countries, even. There's a myth that it's lame to send a check to Samaritan's Purse or World Vision instead of going across the ocean to hold someone's hand while they are dying. Sending that check may actually have a much greater impact than spending the money on your own plane ticket. Support the people and organizations you believe in financially and in prayer. Find ways to directly support small community organizations, local churches, or children in low-income spots around the world. Let someone else be the hero. If we say we believe in prayer, aren't our prayers from a North American home just as effective as prayers while we are off visiting a foreign land?
We Christians are supposed to be the ones who follow Jesus. The tough news is, it's not going to be any easier or more fulfilling if we magically teleport ourselves to new circumstances and surroundings. We need to keep walking with Jesus in the day-to-day wherever we are. That's where it's hard. That's where it's most extraordinary.