Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stuck in the Muck!

After church Sunday, I decided to go walk over to the coop next to the house and feed the baby chicks (one month and two months). We had had a lot of rain the night before and all of the droppings had been washed over to one corner as the coop is on a slight slope. I looked down and there was this month old baby chick stuck in the muck. The other birds stepped on her and pushed her down deeper. She was struggling, but to no avail.

I was standing there in high heels and skirt and decided I didn't have time to go back to the house and change, so I reached in and pulled out this bird covered in some serious NASTY. I sat her down, got the hose and rinsed her off. Then I brought her into the house, wrapped her in a towel and set the hairdryer on her to warm the poor little thing up while I quickly changed.

Pretty pitiful looking, eh? She was so close to dying.
After a few minutes of warm air and petting, she started to try standing. When I first started to warm her up, she had to be propped by the towel. But by this time she was doing pretty good on her own.
After fifteen minutes or so she was good to go. Isn't she pretty?! I kept her inside with me until she decided to start exploring our bedroom.

She was good to go when I took her back out with her siblings. She was the first one at the feed when I threw it in. She's doing well now and appears to be no worse for wear.
So I started thinking, as I do from time to time. How many times do we see people stuck in the muck struggling and unable to get out on their own? How many times to we step on them, even unintentionally? How many times do we walk past them because we don't want to get it on us? How many times do we simply look and comment on the troubles other people are in?
I've heard it said many times that Christians are the only ones that shoot their own wounded. I'm sad to say that I've witnessed a few executioners at work. But where I think we loose the most wounded isn't in the shooting of judgement and condemnation, but in the way we just get so caught up in our own lives and our own comfort zones that instead of shooting them, we neglect them and let them die.
Then time passes by and we ask, "What happened to...?"
I know I'm guilty of missing opportunities to minister.
You know, Jesus was never so caught up in His day to day life that he walked past ANYONE who was stuck in muck and struggling. He never forgot about them. He was never worried about getting dirty. He focused on other people and helped pull them out no matter their circumstances or His. For instance...
* the woman at the well (John 4)
* Zaccheus (Luke 19)
* the adulterous woman (John 7)
* the sinners Jesus ate with and spent time with (Mark 2)
* the man on the cross next to His (Luke 23:43)
...just to name a few.
We aren't Jesus, but we are to follow His example. I'm praying for my eyes to be opened to see and my heart to be sensitive to feel the needs of others. My commitment is to make contact with at least three people every week and reach out to them with a loving hand.
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13;35

Friday, September 18, 2009

Behold...Children are a blessing from the Lord!

Please read all the way through. This post isn't to condemn small families. It is to clarify the feelings behind those with large families. It is to edify the amazing gift that children are. So please, read through the entire post to gather the full meaning which is my heart about our children and our desire to have more. In our society, a family that stops at 2 or 3 isn't put through the scrutiny those of us who have it in our hearts to have more are put through. The decision to stop at just a couple kids is accepted, but those of us who go on are criticized, even in the Christian church. That is the purpose of this post.

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend. It wasn't a new one for me. The question of why we would want more children when we already have five blows many people away. In the light of several miscarriages, including one three months ago today, they question why we would even try again. They talk about the work involved, and costs involved. When I recently said that I wanted another, I was told that children are for the glory of God. Yes, I agree, our children should be to the glory and edification of Christ, as should be everything else in our lives. However, the Bible says the most AMAZING thing about children!

Psalm 127:3-5a

Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Doesn't this verse about say it all when it comes to God's feeling towards children? They are a GIFT, a REWARD, a man who has many is BLESSED.


Psalm 139:13-16

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

God PERSONALLY put each and every one of us together! When we are blessed with the gift of a child, we are blessed with handiwork of God. When we see, hold, touch our children, we are seeing, holding, touching THE HANDIWORK OF GOD HIMSELF! He was with that child from the moment of conception, before a mother even knows.

So I ask, why would a Christian couple actively pursue a course of action to prevent such a gift, a reward, a blessing, from the Lord?

Does it stem from a concern of how they will be clothed and fed and housed? Quite frequently yes, especially in the American society where it's not just about clothing, feeding, and housing, but about the name brand of the clothing, the type of food eaten, and the size of the housing. Please note that I didn't say "ALWAYS, yes..." Just read through to the end.

I have seen some amazing work at God's hand in large families including our own. True glory goes to God when parents stop worrying about how THEY are to provide and instead allow GOD to provide through them. God PROMISED to meet ALL of our NEEDS many times.

In Philippians, Paul had written to the church in Philipi and in chapter four was closing out his letter. He encourages them at the end to have faith and be content and to trust Christ's provision. Verse 19 says, "But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." It doesn't say SOME of your needs. It doesn't say ALL of your wants. It say ALL of your NEEDS. That includes food, clothes, and shelter.

This doesn't mean to sit back and wait for these things to magically appear before you. It is not okay to have baby after baby, sit idly by, and expect others to care for your children. We are commanded to work and have faith and peace and God will provide through us. Laziness and slothfulness is condemned throughout the Bible. What it does mean, however, is that if you are walking in faith, these things will come. They may not be the biggest, best or most impressive, but if you're walking according to His will, that won't matter. In fact, just a few verses prior to this Paul said, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (verse 11b-13)
My favorite though is found in Matthew 6:25-34 and comes from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself while on Earth. It is a promise from our Lord and Savior, the Provider of all our needs.

25 "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into
barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?27 "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
28 "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
29 yet I say to you that not even
Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.30 "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
31 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?'
32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

So what does this have to do with having more children and children being for the glory of God? It has to do with having faith that HE will provide for the needs of the many blessings HE may wish to give you. Where is the glory to God when a couple decides to stop having children BECAUSE THEY FEEL THEY CANNOT FINANCIALLY PROVIDE? Isn't faith stepping out and letting GOD provide?

Lest anyone feel they are being judged for stopping at 1, 2 or 3 children, know that God does not call all people to all things!!! Some people may only be called and led to have 2 or 3 children. Others are called and led to have MANY children. I would no more judge a couple for having only two than I would want anyone else to judge us for having five and possibly more.
How do you know the difference? Well, only God can truly judge the heart of man. However, while rebuking the Pharisees in Matthew 12, Christ told us one thing that is true of all people, "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." (v. 34b)

That's a tough one for me. The last few months have been a mix of sorrow, from whence comes bitterness, and in many times victory and joy. I have had words come from my mouth that have embodied all of those feelings. Some of those feelings I need to hand over to God and let go of. Some of those feelings I need to embrace.

While our words are good for us to take a deeper look at our own hearts, the words of others gives us a glimpse into theirs. When a Christian couple with a large family says they want more, are your words uplifting and supportive? Are you behind them? Do you see in them the faith through which God provides? Or do you condemn them?

There is your heart.

Likewise, if a Christian couple feels that they are to stop at two, are your words uplifting and supportive? Are you behind them? Or do you condemn them?

There is your heart.

While I can't personally understand only wanting 2, I also can't personally understand a couple in their fifties giving up their career, way of life, the closeness of family, and familiar surroundings to enter into the mission field and live in the bush out in Africa!

What I DO know though, is that when Christians are comfortable and secure KNOWING that they have been called to serve and glorify God in the meaning in which they were called, I am only to support them in love and prayer. I don't have to understand, and it isn't my place to talk them out of it or point out of the negative aspects of what they've been called to.

So here I am, my husband and I having five and desiring more. Why? Well, I think my post explains it all. And should the Lord desire to bless us again, our family with be provided for through HIS promise, through HIS riches in glory, through HIS power, through HIS strength, FOR HIS GLORY.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Psalm 1 - Communing With God

In my growth out of Religious Christianity, where I tried to fit into a mold created by a set of "rules" perceived from the Bible, to a Spiritual Christianity, where I am guided by the Holy Spirit, I've head a few personal revelations. This is one of the most recent.

I had spent the last few weeks waking to various praise songs in my head and heart. Each morning the first thing I did as I awoke was thank the Father for giving me another day. As I went about my morning on one particular day singing and working around the house, I found myself just talking to God off and on. I wasn't on my knees (for which there is definitely a time, place and reason and something I enjoy), I was just saying things like, "Lord, it is so beautiful outside.", "Lord, it's amazing the way you make chicks hatch.", "Lord, it's comforting to feel you." These are all things we say to each other during the day, but I was sharing my feelings and thoughts with the Lord. I was feeling such peace and contentment and a overall feeling of joy.

That was when I felt this blossom in my heart. I had been singing Psalm 1 over and over again in my mind for several days:

Blessed is he who will follow the Lord,
he will not stand in the path of sinner,
he will not sit in the seat of the scoffer,
but the law of the Lord is his delight.

In His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree planted by waters.
He will bear his fruit in its season, his leaf won't die.
In whatever he does, he will prosper.

I had been drawn to and was mulling over the reference to "meditating day and night". In my Religious Christianity view I had often wondered how one could do this without being a Monk! I mean, how can you spend the entire day "meditating" on the Lord and His words when there are other things to be done?!

Well, it hit me that morning that I WAS meditating day and night! I just had to get away from my definition of "meditating" (think transcendental) to a definition more akin to "communing". Many people like to go for walks outside to "commune with nature", which is to say, surround yourself with it. When I go through the day singing praises, reciting Scripture in my mind ("I have hidden Thy word in my heart that I may not sin against Thee." - Psalm 119:11), and talking to God throughout the day as I would a friend, I am doing exactly what the Psalmist wrote about!


Friday, August 7, 2009

Who are You Serving?

Key verses:
John 4:4-42 - Woman at the Well
Matthew 11:30 - Easy yoke, easy burden

Question: Who are you serving, the church or the Lord?

Many of us spend years and years "serving the church." The result is a large and growing number of spiritually burned out Christians. Look into the faces of the people "serving the church" and you will see exhaustion and frustration from always being rushed and from doing way too much. They feel, and have been taught, that "serving the church" is ministry. One look at the results and it is obvious that it isn't.

Christ never burned out. Yes, He became physically tired as He was also man. But he never burned out spiritually. He took His time in each "project" and finished to completion before moving on.

In John 4 we have the story of the Woman at the Well. Jesus sent His disciples on, but He sat. He took His time to talk to her. As I read this story, I don't envision a Jesus out of breath, eyes heavy, agitated and exuding an overall presence of "I have to get through this really quick so I can check it off my list of things to do and move on to another project."

He sat. He talked with her. How long? Now I can't tell you the exact amount of time, but I CAN tell you it was a LONG time. How do we know this? Because it was...

Long enough for the disciples to continue into the village to purchase food.
Long enough for He and the the woman to have a life changing conversation.
Long enough for the woman to run into the village herself.
Long enough for her to tell many others about Him.
Long enough for the disciples to hear what was going on.
Long enough for the woman to return to Jesus bringing many people from the village with her, including the disciples.

That's a long time! And He was still there when she returned.

Notice that He didn't move on from one project to another and than back again weary and worn. He waited patiently for God to complete the work. The Bible does not mention what He did during this time, but being Jesus, I like to think that He probably spent that time in conversation with the Father. He was probably growing in excitement knowing what was about to come.

I feel pretty certain He wasn't complaining about all the work He had to do and how tired He was and wondering when He got to rest.

Christ said in Matthew 11:30, "For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Now I ask you, if His yoke is EASY and His burden is LIGHT, what kind of feelings should be stirred inside you while carrying out the ministry he has called for you to do? Let me answer that for you.

It will not cause angst and anxiety. It will not cause you to be slumped over. It will not leave you frustrated. It will not leave you too tired for your family. It will not leave you with a bad taste in your mouth when it is finished. It will not create anger because there aren't enough people helping. It will not make you want to miss church. It will not leaving you feeling empty because you have poured yourself out.

It WILL feel you with the same joy Christ had though! It WILL fill you with excitement! It WILL fill you with energy. It WILL leave you looking with anticipation for the next ministry opportunity God brings your way!

Examine the exchange between Christ and the disciples at the well after all was said and done. He was exuberant, joyful and looking forward!!!

John 4:31-38 (NLT)
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.”
32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other.
34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. 36 The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! 37 You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. 38 I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”

WOW!!!! Can you feel the excitement and joy in His voice?! He couldn't wait to do more! He saw an entire field of work and He was not only ready to go, but energized and excited about it!!!

What was the result of His taking his time? First, John 4:40 says that the people BEGGED Jesus to stay! Second, verse 42 tells us that the villagers told the woman, “Now we believe, not just because of what you told us, but because we have heard him ourselves. Now we know that he is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Imagine that! People came to Christ. And it wasn't because he was exhausted from all his church activities. It was because He was joyful!

Why was He joyful? Because He wasn't "busy" with "serving the church" but was instead was carrying out His ministry that the Father had given Him.

We ALL have a ministry. Many times that ministry involves working in the church and serving there. But there is a line. Have you crossed over it from carrying out "your ministry" call to "serving the church"? When you serve the church, you serve man. And it will wear you out. Make you resentful. Make you wonder where all the joy has gone.

But we know that when we serve CHRIST there is joy.

Do you feel joy when you think about all of your "church activities"? Do you feel energized? Do you look forward to the next ministry while still in the middle of the one you're in? Do you feel peace? Are your activities bringing people to the person of Christ (notice I did not say "bring people to your church")?

If not, then it's time to step back and evaluate your focus. You may be serving the church instead of the Lord. As Christians we have a tendency to become so wrapped up in looking to discover our place of service in our church that we completely forget about about our ministry and service to the Lord. What did He say to the disciples while in Samaria? John 4:36, "... What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike! ..."
The answer to one simple question will tell you who you are serving: Are you feeling the joy of planting and gathering the harvest? What you do with the answer is between you and God.

I have said these things unto you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
~John 16:33