Friday, September 28, 2012

The Journey of the Reluctant Evangelist in the Belt

First, again this is about evangelism but on this journey I have been wondering what are the issues I have that have been making it difficult for me personally to share. God has been showing me. First, He made me a person of prayer. I have been skilled in this way. I did not realize it was a skill until I understood many people struggle to do it. You see when I enter any place I am (in my mind) constantly praying. The Spirit that lives in me shows me things and what to pray. I have always thought this was what happens with everyone else but I am learning this is not the case.

Knowing this I am taking my role more seriously. There must be a reason that prayer walking takes little or no effort on my part. It is simply who God made me to be as a part of the body. Not sure what part it makes me but I know it is important to participate in my calling. With that premise I need you to know I am constantly watching and praying and looking for opportunity to talk.

Sadly, another way I was made, is that words are difficult for me. I cannot do shallow or surface talk. I try I really do but come up short. I am so awkward. It is not a fear it is just seriously not being able to craft words unless it is something I am interested in and that I know the other person is too. Since I am really interested in people and their walk with Christ I want to talk about this, however in our culture there is a wall that you must get through before you can really talk about this. Most anytime I try to skip this step I seem to forward and lose the person I am talking too. So I listen, sit back and pray. When opportunity arises or a question comes I then have an open door to talk. I trust this is ok. God knows my heart.

I have been reading a book about a woman who was living in Afghanistan. Their culture is to openly talk about faith and God. They openly ask questions. They listen. They are interested in the ways of Jesus yet they are Muslim. At least they are open to listening and ask and talk about it openly and often. It is normal there. No wall you have to pry through. They consider the topic of faith important. I wish we were more like that in America. Then diving in would be easier.

Anyway, after all I have been learning my pastor posted a great Scriptural prayer. Read it here. It was great to see I could pray these Scriptures and leave it to God. As I went out to the grocery store as usual an older gentleman helped me by taking out my groceries. They really like our little guy and raved about how smart he was. I was able to tell him how that blessed me because we only got custody of him in January and at that time he could barely speak anything. I was so worried about it. It makes me cry to think of God's goodness and how far he has come in these 8 months.

He then shared with me that he was in a similar situation with his grandson. It was horrible what his grandson went through but they are helping him improve also. It is indeed a blessing.

I was then able to tell him that it is right to rescue these children from abuse if we can. It is right to adopt them. In fact it is living the gospel out. Jesus did the same for us, He reached down and rescued us from our life of sin and yuck and adopted us to Himself by death on the cross. We were on a similar path that He could relate to. It was a beautiful thing.

This man agreed and said simply yes, God is good. That was the end of our packing up of groceries, time for him to get back in and mine to leave. It was nice to converse like that. Opportunities I need to find more often but I am confident of this, God will open the doors as I am looking and He will make it clear and keep me bold as I ask Him. This is true evangelism. We must have a love for our neighbors. We must use every opportunity to share Christ.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day by Morgan

I received a copy of this book free of charge for the purpose of review from Baker Publishing Group.

This book was exactly what I expected. It is titled well to agree with its content. It is a very easy read and an easy guide to the many religions and cults in our world today. It covers 40 chapters of about 4 pages each. It was very informational and gave me enough information to understand the gist of each religion listed.

I was surprised to find that Hinduism seems to have a bigger influence in the world in thought than I expected. I am grieved because I hear often parts of the worldview in some of the television shows I let the kids watch. Popular shows that are spreading these worldviews very stealthily. Atleast it gave me enough information to understand where these worldviews are coming from.

If you want a brief overview of world religions written in a non biased way by a believer or Christ this is a good book. You can get a copy from Amazon here.

Isaiah - The Background

I cannot begin to tell you how wonderfully excited I am to get into this study of Isaiah! If you are following along here the back story is important information to understand. We need to know why Israel is in the place it is in the book of Isaiah. It is so important to understand this to appreciate the book of Isaiah. May we see God in ways we have not before. We will clearly see His frightful justice, His amazing grace, and His solution for our problem foretold.

From the beginning God desired relationship with us. Sin quickly entered the scene of our life on earth through our first parents, Adam and Eve. This sadly marred a perfect relationship with God. God cannot tolerate sin, justice must be paid for it. When sin entered the world things changed yet God had a plan to fix it. He always had this plan.

You see, God was going to make the ultimate sacrifice to pay for the sin we committed. All our fault yet all His restoration. He is amazing. He is the Hero of every story. He is what the entire Bible is about. The book of Isaiah will point us quite often to Jesus. It is the hope we have and the hope they had because He was going to restore to us a right relationship with God through faith in HIM alone. God even points this out to them at the height of their grossest sinfulness.

God is a God of covenant. Meaning He is faithful to His promises. He however, entered into a conditional covenant with His people through the law. In doing this there were rules they needed to follow. They were to let the Lord rule. He was to be the King of their lives.

However, after time passes and they are in the land God promised to them they look around at the other nations. They see they have an earthly king to rule them. The Israelites decided they also want a human ruler to rule like the other nations. This is a rejection of God. Yet God allows it (1 Samuel 8). They are stubborn because despite the warnings of how a dictator king will oppress them, they want one anyway. God also foreknew this writing in rules of how a king should behave in the book of Deuteronomy.

Saul is appointed first king. The people are happy because he is handsome and taller than the rest. However he does not lead a great legacy. He loses the kingdom because of his disobedience to the Lord. God then appoints another king in his place. King David, who is the most famous king of the Bible. He was a king after God's heart. His son Solomon then rules after him but his heart went astray because of his disobedience and this is what the Lord did, "11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen” 1 Kings 11:11-13.

This is how Israel becomes two separate kingdoms instead of one. Now a smaller kingdom is formed in Judah. This is the king family line that Jesus will eventually come from. I wrote a study on the kings of Israel that can be found here. It walked us through their history. The background is good info because what is happening with them is important and parallels the kingdom of Judah. Isaiah will be prophesying to the kings of Judah. I also wrote a study on the lives of the kings of Judah and all in the family line of Christ which you can get here. I also can just send you an email version if you are interested just email me. All the history is so interesting. It helps you see the cultural context of Isaiah rightly.

The people have gone astray and are worshiping many idols, they are unfaithful to God. They have run astray and are committing spiritual adultery against God. In His great love He sends prophets to speak for Him. He warns His children over and over. He loves them so much to warn of the impending danger of breaking covenant but also loves them enough to not withhold punishment when they do not listen. He is a good Father. He loves His children but they will not listen.

When you read the account of the kings you see that they decline in following the Lord over and over. They seek many things other than God. Reasons? Prosperity comes and they forget God. They get strength and think they do not need God. They want to be like the others around them so they start to worship their gods. It is a very sad decline you see through the generations. Yet God is good and He is patient with them. He sends His messengers through the prophets. 

During the time of Isaiah Amos, Micah, Hosea, and Isaiah were all at work warning the people to come back. They refused. However, God is good and promises though He must punish them He will save a remnant for the sake of His covenant. He will also send a coming Savior who Isaiah points to in much of the book.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ministry Motherhood

I am watching my wonderful friend start this amazing ministry Wow Kids in the Emma Wheeler Projects here in Chattanooga. Check out what they are doing here and sign up to help! I cannot help but feel a tinge of jealousy. I loved working with inner city kids when I was a social worker. It was an amazing joy in my heart doing ministry with them. I always thought I would be doing what she is doing.

However, a three year old was tossed into our life unexpectedly when I was getting to that place of having kids old enough to serve in this kind of ministry with me. I have suddenly had to start over. I am now grounded again. This has hurt my heart! Again I was failing to see that I have ministry here in the home. A very important ministry not only to my own family but to a very special boy, a technical orphan. He came with many needs and it has been intense work for our family. This is ministry. Dying daily to yourself to pour out your life is ministry. We do it because Christ loved us first. It is in Him we live and move and serve.

It hurt my heart this year because I even had to drop out of teaching ESL. I loved that ministry because I love all things international. I felt so much at home there. However, I had to give this up as well this year because of our family situation. I have no women's ministry to serve in where we are placed. The joys of my heart have all been taken away regarding service. Excluding my Sunday School class that I have been able to continue as He leads but I am not holding on too tightly.

There are seasons and different times for different types of ministry. I did have to start over again but it is ok for the sake of this child! He is what God has placed in my path, the care of this orphan is the ministry. It is an entire family ministry. I often discounted ministry to just one but I was wrong. All that we are pouring into His life we must trust is exactly what God has for us at this time.

It reminds me of the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian in the Bible. Phillip was working in a very big and thriving ministry then the Holy Spirit told him to go away from it. He was led to one man trying to understand the scroll of Isaiah. Phillip then explained the gospel of Jesus Christ to Him. He believed on the spot. Phillip left the big things all for the sake of this one man that God called to Himself before the beginning of time. Do not discount what may seem like little or small ministry to you.

You never know the plans God has for this little life we are privileged to have with us. Also, we have the opportunity of sharing the gospel with his parents and family. Sometimes that is through tough love and sometimes through undeserved kindness, but is that not how God loves us? We are getting the opportunity to shine Christ as supreme to them. There is no greater ministry. These people are created in His image who He dearly loves. Who knows what God will do as we are faithful to His call.

So when I see these authors around publishing books, or speakers speaking at all these places, or even these churches with great thriving women's ministries, or missionaries around the globe, I must say that surrendering it all now for this season or forever is more pleasing to God for the sake of these lives He has placed right in front of us. It is a painful death, a death of dreams, of promises I thought I heard, but it is worth it to be on His path. All I desire is truly Him. If He has given me a voice to tell others I will do it to whoever I can. That is my ministry.

Moms, enjoy your kids, enjoy your husbands, we never know what life has in store and what each season holds for us. Just take each day as a gift and those desires God has placed in your heart for bigger things offer them to Him. You never know what will happen at the proper time, after the death does come resurrection.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No T.V. Month Started Early this Year

October is no T.V. month in our household because there is so much evil and scary junk on even the family friendly channels during this time of the year. I have a child who is especially sensitive to this so we are trying to shield her from it as much as possible. Sadly even now I cannot take her to most stores unless I know how to avoid this junk. This is fine to me because I don't see anything redemptive in these dark things anyway and staying away from stores saves money!

We started early this month because there was just junk coming out of the mouths of my children. Even worst there was an increase of fighting and arguing. I made an executive decision to cut it off now. It has been a couple of days and you know what? We are fine. The exceptions to the rule is if it is a normal DVR kind of show we usually would watch when a new one airs, "I mean give me a break I MUST watch So You Think You Can Dance people! It is an obligation." However, we will be fast forwarding through any of the commercials. I am seeing that watching commercials feeds the greed in their hearts as well.

Also, Netflix is an option if the privilege of viewing something is earned. Now, little man has the exception on this rule. He likes his Disney Jr and Sprout! He can view most of this on the ipad while I am in the middle of schooling the olders. Atleast these are controlled and commercial free.

One great thing about this is that creativity can be encouraged and though my children are creative anyway, I have seen them pursue even deeper pursuits these past few days. They are writing plays and acting them out. Learning music and instruments. They are language learning. They are playing pretend. They are reading more. These are all great things. However most importantly they are refocusing their hearts on God. They are regaining their biblical worldview. They are seeing what is more important. Even upon earning television time they have decided they could pursue better pursuits! I am loving this and hoping it will continue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Book Review: Christ our Mediator by C.J. Mahaney

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Too often we neglect the need we have for daily reflection of the cross of Christ. We often lose focus making us the center of our lives instead of Christ. This book helps direct you toward the cross and encourages you to preach the gospel to yourself daily so you do not miss the wonder of it.

We need to be pondering Jesus and His sacrifice daily to rightly see our need for a Savior and treasure that grace He bestows on us. Then in turn we can give it to others. This book is a must read for every Christian. We can never read enough about the cross or the gospel to understand it in its entirety.

There is a chapter in this book about Christ and what it meant in deep detail for him to ponder the worse thing that could happen to Him, separation from the Father. He willingly with much agony experienced this separation because His love for us was greater. Now that He experienced this depth of pain and separation we do not have to. We are clean before the Father through faith in Christ.

This book addresses all of this and more. I found my heart in continual and spontaneous worship. These are the kinds of books that are worth reading. Get this one if you want to experience a deeper depth in your walk with Christ.

You can get a copy of this book at Amazon here.

Book Review: 10 Christians Everyone Should Know by John Perry

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of review.

This book was exactly what I thought it would be, a book about ten Christians through history that the author selected as people he thinks we should know. Some I had heard of previously and others I had not. I am a lover of biographies so this was right up my alley. It was interesting yet dry to read in places. I however enjoyed it.

If you enjoy biographies you will be encouraged by how these ten lived their lives for Christ. It was also interesting to me to see how believers functioned at different times in different societies.

I believe you need to be a lover of biography to enjoy this title. Otherwise look elsewhere. To get a copy of this book from Amazon go here.

But I'm Good....Another journal for the Reluctant Evangelist in the Belt

One thing I am observing as I watch and pray and meditate on the desperate need the Bible belt has for the true gospel of Jesus Christ the more saddened my heart becomes. I am reading two books along with the Bible to help me process this journey of making disciples.

One problem is there are too many resources out there, too many "programs" to supposedly help with this. Too much motivation by others counting numbers. I am thankful that God put only two deeply biblical books at my feet. The first is called, "Marks of the Messenger, knowing, living, and speaking the Gospel" by J. Mack Stiles. The second is called, "Jesus the Evangelist" by Richard Phillips.

The first book has been so helpful so far, It explains how we lose the gospel. How through 4 generations it can be lost entirely. I am believing that is happening in the belt. The first big mistake we make is "assuming the gospel" which means instead of sharing it you assume people have it especially if they can say the right words etc. Then we become a "cultural gospel" which is what is true of where I live. We live in a "church culture." More people go to church here just as an act of the culture. If these people attend a church where the gospel message is not embraced and focused on then they are lost. They are sick without a doctor though they remain in the hospital. They are blinded. The message of the gospel must be held up highly and continually. We must protect it. We must live it. We must speak it. We must preach it to ourselves daily.

Now about my title, "but I am good". Our little three year old is obsessed about being told he is good. Whenever he gets in trouble he cries out, "I'm good. I'm good!" He will not let this go. He does not want to accept his behavior as sin. He is justifying himself by saying he is good. However, there is no one good when we compare ourselves to the only and right standard which is Christ. No one is good not even one. His death and sacrifice in our place on the cross is what is needed to be good. It is not something we do or can keep up it is simply accepting what He has done on our behalf by faith. It is believing and holding on to the cross even when we sin. He traded places with us so we could be acceptable to God but He is the only way. There is no good in us.

We can appear good by upholding a moralistic standard but that is not the gospel. The gospel is embracing what has been done for us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing else can make us good. NOTHING! So when I hear our precious little guy say this I tell him that no one is good apart from Jesus. I point him to the cross and tell him what an amazing sacrifice and gift God has for us, that He wants to offer us. I pray one day he too will believe it.

Speaking about a three year old is kind of silly because we sort of expect this kind of thought and behavior from someone who is three. Yet, as adults we do the same thing. We try to cover ourselves, a sin that started in the garden when our first parents believed that they knew better than God which ushered sin into this world. Ever since we were born in sin desperately in need of a Savior.

As I walk and observe I am praying fervently for this culture that we will see our desperate need for a Savior. That we will be at the right place at the right time to speak this truth to those who are ready to hear it. I will be learning how to speak it through conversation through these books. I am excited to see what fruit it will bring about. The gospel is not something we can count in numbers. When we share with others no matter their response we must believe that God is using it somehow. Only God truly knows another persons heart.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Help the Poor - Living Love - Blogging for a Purpose with Compassion


I have a very random blog. I decided early on that I was not in this blogging thing for the money like many others around the sphere. I needed an outlet that would give me a voice. Not for only my own sanity but also for those things that God cares about. Those things He shows me and teaches me. Then in turn if it encouraged or helped anyone to Him be the glory! It is so worth it.

I was reading a book about the Lost Boys of Sudan and the boy who wrote it was talking about sponsorship programs in his area like Compassion that came and sponsored some of the children in the refugee camp he lived in. The sponsored children got basic things like a pencil to do school work with, proper clothing, and food. This boy who never was sponsored did his school work with a stick scratching in the dirt, dug food out of the trash dump, and made do with the clothes he had. I had no idea!

I imagined it would be difficult to look around and have some kids sponsored in your community while you struggled just to survive. In that particular refugee camp I was reading about he said it was not uncommon to see children taken out each morning because they had died in their sleep! A regular part of life yet here we sit fat! I can not get this out of my mind!

I decided to sponsor a child through Compassion international and become a blogger for them. A worthy purpose. I hope you will not ignore these posts. I hope you will see that it is so very cheap in American monies to sponsor a child. Only $38.00 a month. Can you spare that to give a child a chance?

The girl I chose to sponsor is 19. I realize now that many of the older kids do not get sponsors. It is a sad thing indeed. Older children have had to learn to persevere and to be strong. The area I chose is an area highly infected with AIDS and children are at a very high risk of being exploited or abused. I know she is very far away from us but she has stolen my heart. I pray she has an amazing chance in life. Already she is helping in church. She is helping her family. She is an orphan but lives with extended family. I am so happy to be a part of her life, praying, supporting, and encouraging her in writing.

So I hope you can do something too. Help the cause of the poor around the world by sponsoring a child. There is a "prize" as well for those who get the most to go over and sponsor a child this month. I do not want that but I do want you to help! So if this humble blog gets the most sponsors I will be having a contest to give away the prize. Go to this link to sponsor now or at least take a few moments of your time to pray for these children.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Aspergers and Birthdays

My sweet amazing nine year old girl just had her birthday and I am so amazed at her beauty and growth. I am so blessed by God to have such a precious gift. She helps me have fun and teaches me to loosen up! She is the one who stretches me like crazy too because I have no idea how to handle these issues that pop up out of the blue with aspergers.

Birthdays are part of the asperger adventure. I try to help protect her and help her cope when things are difficult. Here is a quick example of why it is hard.

1-Waiting! Waiting on a date is pure torture!!! When she realizes the date is coming it is daily planning out what she wants her day to look like, what gifts she wants, and begging me to let her celebrate early.

2-Changes! When her birthday looks different from year to year it is just pure difficult. She does not like change and this world is full of change. An example is the blessing given by the sweet lady at Chili's. She told our sweet girl she could pick any dessert for free off the menu. At first she was excited then realized when we got home we were having cake. When the dessert came out she cried about it. She wanted cake too and was concerned if she ate both she would be sick. It took much convincing that it was ok to have both and we were not going to change going home for cake! So exhausting to us both.

3-Everyone has to be happy on her birthday. As you can imagine that is difficult when life throws its own blows like sickness, tiredness because the sick one kept us up all night, and just plain old misunderstandings.

These are just a few of the challenges with aspergers and birthdays but I imagine as she gets older she will be able to handle them more and more easily. I can already see improvements from past years. There were things that upset her that happened and she did not respond inappropriately. I told her I recognized these and was so proud of her. I asked her the difference and she says, oh I am still irritated but I have learned how to be appropriate. :) Love this girl!!!

The Awkward Evangelist in the Bible Belt

So I have a confession for you. I really do not like living in the Bible belt when it comes to evangelism. I really cannot stand it. It makes me cringe and cry out to God. I am a baby whining to move. My heart longs for international things. It has always been this way, I love hanging out in airports because it is the gateway to the world. Anyone can walk by from any place. It is quite amazing. I really desire strongly to move to Dubai because it is one of the most international places in the world. I cannot even begin to tell you how I cry and moan about this to God. Oh how blessed I am that He loves me just the way I am and is not taken back by this.

In fact I believe He has put that desire there. After all who in their right mind would really want to leave all this comfort in America and the hospitality of the Bible belt to move to the middle of the desert in the middle of a potential battle zone? A place where waring countries are close to one another, where pirates sail the gulf, and where terrorists live and organize nearby. Yet still it is not too much different from here if you can be sitting in a movie theater and be shot these days. Yet if it were my flesh crying out I think I would be saying no thank you I will gladly sit here at home drinking my Starbucks and watching So You Think You Can Dance.

So back to evangelism in the Bible belt. Oh it is so incredibly hard. There are lots of people here dying who do not know Christ. They are people who are attending church. They are the people who are following culture or tradition. Now before you begin to hate me for typing this, please understand I cannot know anyone's heart. I cannot know for certain if a person belongs to Christ or not. However, the Bible tells us we will know them by how they love and their fruit. These are observable things. I think they can give us a good gauge to go by.

Again, salvation is not about perfection either or works. It is about what Christ has done. It is letting Him be Lord of your life. It is about following Him. He molds us and changes us more and more like Him as we follow Him, as we behold Him and accept by faith what He has done for us. His beauty and Majesty should stir our hearts. It does stir the hearts of those who belong to Him. The mention of His name is lovely to others who love Him.

Now back to evangelism. I walk through my day with children in tow. Sometimes we reflect Christ and sometimes we do not. Again, it is not about perfection it is about receiving His free gift of salvation. We are all works in progress. Yet what I have found living here in the belt is that I think it is safe to say everyone has heard the message of the gospel. So when I talk about Jesus and what He means in my life it should resonate. Either with disdain or a sense of unity.

Yet here I hear things like I go to church, or I try to be good, or my brother's a pastor.  I am taken back. After talking further people are convinced this is enough. If they are nice and go to church they are safe. It is like talking to someone with a glaze over their eyes. They are blinded by something, they are veiled but believe they are safe in the gospel. I don't get it and my words fall to the ground. I try to tell them the truth but they cannot seem to hear.

So the point of my post, this is my frustration. My pastor has challenged us to pray for our city and reach our city for Christ. So I will go out and pray and speak. I am going to chronicle what happens here. I sadly have really just stopped talking to people because I have found it hopeless but I am seeing this is wrong and as long as God has us here in the belt I am to be a missionary where He has planted me. So there I said it. I have been wrong to see it as hopeless, Christ can reach anyone even those in the belt who don't think they need Him because they go to church.

Stay tuned....I am sure this adventure will be embarrassing to me yet holds some things beautiful for Him.

A Journey Through Isaiah

I am taking a personal journey through the book of Isaiah. I thought I will chronicle what I am learning and specific questions via blog. So you are more than welcome to join me in this. This will not be like the typical Bible studies I have done because I am doing this mostly because I believe God has lead me into it. And well, the blog is a place I can just let thoughts flow.

Though I do not have the conviction of making this into a full study for others like I have done in the past I still think you can benefit from it if you are interested in Isaiah. Of course any Bible study is more meaningful with good discussion so if you really want to go through and discuss with me what you are learning I would be open to that and love the companionship.

I do believe there is so much we can learn from what was written in the past. So much to learn about our Savior. All I want is to know Christ and I believe this book will open my eyes in new and fresh ways of beholding Him. I pray it will grow me deeper in HIM.
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