Posted in Despair, Destiny, Endurance, Faith, Family, God's call, Missions, Perspective, Rewards, Sacrifice, Thanksgiving, The Call of God

Always

I’m happy.

The fact that I can say that despite all of things that need attention around me makes my head spin. I have so many frying pans in the fire that I’m running out of firewood! Spreading myself thin has taken on a new meaning in the past few years. By no means is this a complaint – I wouldn’t live a life other than the one I am now living – but if I’m not careful I can quickly slip into feeling overwhelmed, sad, and helpless wondering about what I left behind in the wake of answering the call that lies before me.

I tried a few times in my lifetime to fit into the normal mold of what a Christian mother/wife/leader (whatever I am) is supposed to look like. The popular Bible studies and books meant to “better” my life all lined my bookshelves; they didn’t just line my bookshelves, I read them all and I learned, oh did I learn, that I am an enigma among my peers. This has caused me great frustration over the years; I would find myself wondering (and sometimes still do find myself wondering) what was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just like everyone else and be satisfied with what normal people are satisfied with?

I’ve long dreamt of a home of our own to settle down in. My husband and I have tried a couple of times to “settle down” and do what we thought was expected/needed from us. I lived in a house in the USA for just over 2 years that I loved. I thought this was to be the place where my grandchildren would visit me and I would finally be able to “nest.” I kept it well; I loved it so – but the tug for what waited for me on the other side of the horizon called my name every morning and evening.  I planted a garden and a hedge and it was beautiful but there came a time when a choice had to be made and we drove away from that home for the last time. We once again said goodbye and boarded a plane, looking for the place that kept calling our names from the other side of the world.

I’ve dreamt of being a normal mother and grandmother. Well, I know I’d never be normal in the classic sense of the word, but I have dreamt of being accessible, nearby, to see my grown children have children and watch their families grow. I pictured myself wearing bright red lipstick, driving with my grandchildren to buy toys and ice cream and feeling their little arms around my neck and telling them how much I love them. Seeing them through Snapchat, Instagram, and Facetime does little to soothe the ache that fills my chest whenever their names are uttered. Then, they resume living and I hear our names called from far and I have to answer.

On a far less serious note, I’ve dreamt of having a dishwasher, a SUPERMARKET with lunch meat, hairspray, shampoo, soap, and Ziplock bags, and a nice salon where I can get my hair done – ice cream would be amazing too.

In the distance, however, a people calls our names and where they are, I can’t find any of these things but what I do find in doing God’s will brings me deep joy that I can’t explain.

I suppose today’s blog is my Thanksgiving blog and I have so much for which to be thankful – and at the same time I find myself wishing that the traditional Thanksgiving turkey would be on our table tomorrow. I wish for the day to be surrounded by all those who are far, to hear a loud football game playing on TV for my husband, to pray a Thanksgiving prayer and tell each one how much I love them.

But a traditional Thanksgiving is not in the cards for us this year. We don’t have a turkey, no stuffing, no eggnog, no gravy, and no football game (although I’m quite sure my youngest son will find a way to send his dad a link to view the game). What is in the cards for our Thanksgiving is a day with those who are here with us. We will have, of all things, homemade enchiladas with salad and a cake for dessert. With those family members and friends we have here we will give thanks, thanks for all we have and for the opportunity to answer the call. Yes, I thank God for the opportunity to say yes, to obey Him, to grow enough in courage and faith to answer when He called.

The call took away so much of what we would consider “dear:” family, friends, culture, language, finance, and more. Things that you don’t think you would miss like toothpaste and your preferred brands of shampoo suddenly become a big deal when every day you are reminded of all that you have left to answer Heaven’s charge.

While all of this could sound bleak to one who’s never answered their call, those of us who have heard our names calling us from lands afar, “count it all joy.” (James 1:2-4)

Psalm 119:2 LB “Happy are all who search for God and always do His will.”

 

 

Posted in Choices, Control, Courage, Faith, Finishing, Ministry, Missionary, Missions, Sacrifice, Sorrow, The Call of God, Vision

The Giving Up

Psalm 45:10 LB“I advise you…not to fret about your parents in your homeland far away.”

Living far from my homeland, where my children, grandchildren, and extended family live, has been a walk of faith. Sometimes I’ve wondered if I had what it takes to carry this kind of load, the “not to fret” kind of load.

I’ve been told when talking of living overseas all these years, “Oh, you’re used to it.” Indeed, I am used to this way of living on many levels. I can speak several foreign languages, live without A/C or power, shop for groceries like a pro in the markets, and even drive in foreign nations (it’s wise to take an antacid before trying to drive here).

However, I digress, there’s something that one never “gets used to” and that is the giving up to go. The giving up has less to do with giving up things and more to do with giving up being with loved ones. Each time I say goodbye I wonder how long it will be until the next hello. Will we meet again on earth or in heaven? Will my grandchildren know me? Will I matter to them?

In fact, with the passage of time, I have come to find that the giving up becomes increasingly poingnant as time goes by because the longer I live, the more I’ve missed in the lives of those I left behind.

My mother passed away when I was in Malawi in 2008. I had been speaking with her on the phone throughout her final illness and she kept saying, “I’ll get through this.” Sadly, she didn’t get through it here; instead she got through to her heavenly home. I remember flying home for her memorial service, having to surrender what I missed of her later years to my Heavenly Father. That lesson of losing a loved one while far away on a mission is not taught in any curriculum anywhere. There’s no homework, course study, or internship that could have possibly walked me through that time, it was all part of the giving up to go – the offering that is made not of money or possessions but of sacrifice.

Last year when we had our most recent trip to the USA, we spent time with our son and his family who had just had their second child, a beautiful girl (their first is an amazing boy). The few days we had together were a highlight – I now understand what all the hype is about concerning grandchildren. The day we were to leave, I felt a wave of emotion of the kind I’ve never experienced before when I held those two precious little ones before climbing into the car. There was no way to hold back the flood of tears that spilled over onto my cheeks. I imagine no one knew what to do with me as I’m not usually given to tears. Yet, there I stood, much to my chagrin, crying ugly tears as I gave up to go.

The morning we left, my thirdborn son, together with my daughter and son-in-law who are now here serving with us, was helping us put the final touches on our packing. He’s a man in his own right, but as I looked at him past his beard and 6-foot stature, I saw the face of a little boy mischeviously peeking around the corner of the living room to watch Jurassic Park when we had told him he was too small to watch such a scary movie. I cried again leaving him behind that morning, alone but not alone.

Some hours later, we stepped onto our return flight to Africa. There was a strange heaviness in my steps that hadn’t been there before; the ugly tears were still flowing as we waited for the plane to take off. In years past, as a young missionary, I had my children with me and the excitement of the mission overtook any overwhelming sadness. We were headed for adventure! Now, having lived a little while and having felt the painful lessons of loss, my sacrifice became increasingly real. The question that arose in my mind in tandem with the hum of the jet engines almost taunted me, “Is He worth giving all of them up to go?”

I found myself stepping off a plane onto the tarmac at the airport here in Bujumbura a few months ago; the mountains vaguely visible through the haze of the dry season. The warm breeze blew past my face and the tears, still flowing, fell to the ground. This land where we started our work planting churches had called us back and there I was, standing in the heat holding my youngest daughter’s hand tightly. Memories of years past played in my mind of the victories and defeats we had faced all for a dream to see a church planted when everyone else thought it impossible.

I wonder how many have had the chance to offer a sacrifice and how many have held on instead of letting go? How many people are waiting around the world for those among us to give up so they, too, can go with us to our Heavenly home when He calls? Perhaps I’ve not given the best offering or had talent to woo the thousands, but I’ve given what I have had to give and will keep giving even when it feels there’s nothing left so others might also go.

And those tears? He has counted each one and bottled them, waiting for the Day when all tears will be wiped away and sorrow will be gone. Until then, He is welcome to have all my tears, my offerings, my sacrifices – as unfit as they are for Him – because He gave His all for me so all of me has become His.

Psalm 58:6 NKJ“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”

Posted in Choices, Family, Fasting, God's Word, Missions, Sacrifice

About Those Potato Chips

The food that potato chips bought.

This time of year, we take part in a fast. It’s always a very meaningful time where we push back and set our minds on our relationship with the Lord and what He has planned for us in the coming year. It’s kind of a reset button that helps us keep our ears and hearts open to God’s voice. No one enjoys the physical process of fasting, but the benefits far outweigh the discomfort.

At home, we’ve always encouraged (never forced of course) our young children to give up, or fast, certain activities (TV and other forms of media for example) or unnecessary snacks for a period of time. Our youngest is an avid potato chip fan – she knows most of what’s available here and panics when the chip stash runs low. This year, she has laid down the chips and has somehow enjoyed the sacrifice. Of course it’s not a full chip fast but it’s precious nonetheless!

One of the often overlooked parts of fasting has to do with what to do with the money we’ve saved with far less grocery shopping. Do we save it or buy something that we’ve wanted but haven’t been able to afford? Do we pay down bills or put it into savings?

While saving money feels good, there is another powerful element of fasting that has far-reaching potential:

Isaiah 58:6-9 NKJV

Is this not the fast that I have chosen:

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

To undo the heavy burdens,

To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily,

And your righteousness shall go before you;

The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

Today the three of us piled into our little car and drove to the store and purchased food and soap that we will distribute among some of the poor in Blantyre where we live. This is actually something our daughter thought of last year after seeing how poor many are in our city. What we purchased today will be bundled into care packages that we will begin distributing this week and she will be front and center putting the packages together. Her joy is palpable and contagious!

Yes, we are aware that this little bit of help will most likely do very little in the larger scope of things to address poverty – but simply because it isn’t enough doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done. Who knows? This little bit of help might just be the glimmer of hope someone needs to see to light their way in the dark. Obedience in the Kingdom of God goes a long way and translates into miracles.

About the potato chips? That sacrifice will go a long way.

Posted in Choices, Courage, Destiny, Dreams, God's call, Missions, Obedience, Offering, Sacrifice, The Call of God, Vision

The Cards Are On The Table

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I’ve recently started a podcast (click here to follow) and what’s been stirring in my heart has been God’s call on our lives; how to follow when the masses are trying to steer us elsewhere. All of us who love Jesus have an assignment on our lives and how we get from point A to point B is where we often stumble.

I have experienced hearing God’s call to missions, to Africa, and answering that call. Following God’s voice  can be likened to following a deep inner desire. While I did, as a child, actually have a vision of the continent of Africa, that vision alone wasn’t enough to keep me going daily in my trek to follow God’s call. It was more of a diving board that God used to launch me in to trusting Him with my life. Jamie (my husband) didn’t have the kind of experience I had as a child; he only felt a strong and irretrievable desire to go to Africa. When we met and married, following God’s path together came naturally and we walked in tandem on His path together. It has been that way for us ever since – neither of us wants to veer off this blessed path that we are on. It has been a journey that has led us to the greatest of heights where God’s power has been on full display for all to see as well as leading us to places of deep darkness where His Word led us sometimes moment by moment when no one was looking.

God’s Word to us, His assignment on our lives, is not only one that requires a daily trust in His wisdom, but also one that will be tested. It is as if you’ll hear, “Did God really say?” whispered into your ears time and again.

Psalm 105:17-20 NKJV  He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.
They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.
The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.”

The above is referring to Joseph; he had been falsely accused and was sent to languish in the prison. Joseph had a dream from childhood that he would become a leader, yet he found himself (and the Word God had given him) being tested in prison. It’s often at this juncture of being tested in prison, when the Word God has given to us is being tried, that we are sorely tempted to give in.

I’m sure Joseph went through a great deal of emotional stress sitting in prison, I’m sure he wasn’t doing a dance when his feet were being bound in shackles. While I am sure he had emotional stress during this time, what I don’t see written in this story is Joseph verbalizing to a great extent his frustration and questioning God’s Word, God’s call. In time, after the testing was complete, Joseph did indeed rise to the calling God had placed on his life. God was true to His Word – He was faithful.

Whether or not Joseph was going to fulfill the call was up to him – the call was there, God’s offer, so to speak, was on the table. Joseph had to accept it no matter what he had to lay down. Think of it, the call cost Joseph everything – he lost everything he owned, he even lost his freedom when he was imprisoned. Still, the call remained and he trusted the word of the Lord.

It may be that you feel you’re “in prison” today; that the call is so far from where you are that it’s an impossible thing to reach. If that’s the case, then keep hanging on. You’re closer than you think. It may just be that the Word God spoke to your heart is being tested and you’re having to live out your own “Joseph experience,” in a prison of sorts.

God is faithful, His Word is true and He is looking for those who will lay everything on the table – for this is the cost of the call. The cards are on the table, it’s all or nothing! The beauty of the call is this: God always gives back much more than we offered to Him. It will come with a price, sometimes that price involves persecution, misunderstanding, traversing dark places, loneliness, and more – but the price we are called to pay, the cards that we lay down, are never greater than the grace He gives us in the process.

God isn’t bluffing – He laid His cards down, now it’s our turn.

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Posted in Change, Courage, Devotion, Faith, Sacrifice

Graduations,Universities, Weddings, and Altars

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I’ve cried out in prayer, like many of you have, “God, I’ll do anything, go anywhere, and give up whatever You ask, for Your will! Everything I have is Yours!” Only to find that everything encompasses everything and that offering of everything I have is much more complicated than praying that prayer sounded at first.

My promise rang out in my mind when God took me up on my offer. I realized when my offering was being accepted that I might not have really meant what I said. Shame filled my heart as I realized my promises to sacrifice everything to my Lord perhaps weren’t as sincere as I thought; I labeled myself the supreme hypocrite until I understood that an offering isn’t meant to be easy. Sacrifices are meant to hurt, just ask the animals offered on the altars in the Old Testament. I don’t think that once the sheep meant for the sacrifice approached the place of slaughter that they happily ran to have their throats slit. In fact, I can almost picture them pulling and crying out for help. No, sacrifices are not easily given; lives are not offered on the altar without a struggle.

Some of the most difficult sacrifices we make in life are those that pull us away from loved ones. That sacrifice not only touches the lives of those going, but also touches the lives of those who stay behind. The journey of those staying behind has a pain all its own and can only be soothed in the same way it is soothed in the lives of those going: by laying our lives, our wills, on the altar of sacrifice. Jesus said, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers” into the harvest (see Luke 10:2). In praying those prayers, it rarely crosses our minds that God might actually take one of our own into His field. Then, when our loved ones answer the call, we resist their leaving us, forgetting that we had prayed (unknowingly perhaps) for them to go.

God the Father understands that pain, you see He never asks something of His children that He Himself hasn’t done before us. God’s Son answered the call of Who will go?” when He came to the earth. God, until that point, had never been separated from His Son, but let Him go fulfill His destiny. In sowing His Son, God reaped a multitude of lost children in us. Now we carry on with that destiny, our own life experiences mirroring His, taking us to every corner of the world with this Good News.

As our families grow and our children graduate, move on to university, get married, move to other states, and even other nations, the altar of sacrifice comes center stage once again and that lamb doesn’t want to stay put. The familiar sting of sacrifice will automatically cause us to pull back; as if out of reflex, to avoid the inevitable hurt that we will feel. I know that pain all too well but have found resisting God’s will to bring more pain than accepting it.

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Resisting the changes God brings to our lives, whether loved ones leaving for the foreign mission field or when our children graduate high school and move away, only results in bitterness thinking over what “could have been.” 

What could have been if we don’t obey God? What would those consequences be? The loss of destiny, the loss of what could have been had we obeyed God or not resisted the obedience of our loved ones to God’s call? Why do we resist so much when the call doesn’t flow with what we thought was “normal” for families? Allowing, instead of resisting, those changes to take place means you’ve graduated in more ways than one.

Here’s a secret, answering God’s call won’t be easy, it will definitely be the road less traveled. However, traveling that road will certainly make all the difference.”

Recently, our family has been reading biographies on missionaries of times past. Just this morning we finished reading about George Müller who was a missionary to the orphans of England in the 1800s and founded the Ashley Down orphanage in Bristol, England. He was a father to over 10,000 orphans over the course of his lifetime and was known for his reliance on prayer and faith in God to meet his and the orphans’ needs. The road he traveled wasn’t what his family, especially his father, expected – his sacrifice cost him greatly and often tasted bitter. It seemed he had nothing, but in the end, as it goes with “All Things God” his life was richer than anyone could ever have imagined.

We won’t see the difference unless we are willing to drink that cup, whether it be sweet or bitter, that has made its way into our hands. That’s the pattern Jesus set for us and I’ve decided not to fight the call. I’m putting my sword down and drinking the cup, it’s what’s best for me.

John 18:11 TLB “But Jesus said to Peter, ‘Put your sword away. Shall I not drink from the cup the Father has given me?’”

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Posted in Choices, Devotion, Faith, Motives, Obedience, Sacrifice

You Get What You Pay For

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In my opinion, I am a cheapskate; I believe I am circumspect in how I spend money. However, it may be that my husband Jamie has a different opinion on the matter altogether. It’s funny how two people who have been married for nearly 33 years with as much in common as we have, can value things as differently as we do. Jamie doesn’t care at all about shopping; he could care less if he ever saw the inside of another shopping center or mall for the rest of his life. It’s very difficult, to put it mildly, to get him to shop for clothes and shoes. When I succeed in getting him to try on some clothes or shoes, the expression on his face is one of exquisite pain. You can probably imagine the next thing that happens – he peppers me with questions and commentary:

Jamie: “Is this on sale?”

Me: “Yes, dear.”

Jamie: “What’s the price?”

Me: “It’s 35% off.”

Jamie: “Isn’t there anything cheaper?”

Me: “This is the best price.”

Jamie: “This doesn’t feel right.”

Me: “You look great!”

Jamie: “There’s nothing in black?”

Me: “No, but this is dark blue and everything you have is black.”

Jamie: “Can’t we come back another time?”

Me: “NO WE CAN’T COME BACK ANOTHER TIME!”

I, on the other hand, enjoy getting out to go shopping. Since I live in Malawi, where shopping as we know it Stateside is non-existent, I enjoy shopping on the rare occasion I get to go. I enjoy the process of finding the best price for what I’m looking for. I don’t see the point of paying full price for anything (and am not of the budget to do so anyway), as there’s always a sale somewhere. If it’s not on sale, I am not interested – I’ll find a substitute somewhere else.

So you can understand the problems we have when it comes time to do any kind of shopping, there’s an immediate conflict of interests. He’s interested in getting out as soon as possible and I’m interested in staying in and finding what I want for a good price. Christmas, birthday, anniversary, or any kind of shopping – it’s a challenge! It’s too painful to watch Jamie endure more shopping than he has to; his usual position is head buried in his hands, lying on a bench somewhere. Our solution? I keep him away from shopping as much as possible and have learned to enjoy going alone so his life (and mine) can be stress-free!

There’s always a price to be paid. Much like going shopping for things we need, we pay according to how we value the item, experience, or relationship. When purchasing groceries or other items, budgeting our money is wisdom. Yet when we are working on intangible, spiritual things, the same logic doesn’t apply.

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” Thomas Paine

I have had the privilege of being a missionary and church planter’s wife for 30 years. I didn’t know, when we first started out in missions, what life would look like in years to come. I was a young wife and mother just trying to get from one day to the next, one meal to the next, one homework assignment to the next with my kids. In the middle of my trying to figure my roles out, we planted our first church. There was no one to teach children’s church, no one to oversee feeding the hungry, no one to counsel young women with HIV – except me. I didn’t consciously begin doing all those things, they simply came upon me and I knew they needed to get done so I did them. At night when my children would go to bed after dinner and sleep after a day at school in a clean bed with parents who love them, I would lie awake and wonder what was happening to the children in the refugee camps or the young women in the hospital with no one to watch them. What about them?

I began to value them, value who they were, and who they could grow up to be, and who they might raise. I began to look at them with the same eyes I look at my own family with and paid the price to do what we could to help better their lives. I’m sure that many have done more, have done better than I – but no one has valued those God has given us more than we have.

How much value do we assign to those who cross our paths? Do we serve them as “cheaply” as possible? Looking for some kind of sale so we don’t have to invest so much of our time or of our emotional, and spiritual energy? How much do we invest in our relationship with God Who spent everything He had for us to have a relationship with Him? Is all we want out of our faith a cheap drive-thru version of a deeper 7-course experience?

In 2 Samuel 24 there’s an account of King David, God’s choice to rule the nation of Israel, and his sin in having a census done. God did not want the Kings of Israel to do a census, to see how much strength they had on their own, for He wanted His people to trust in Him and not their own strength. When David performed the census, it was a cheap substitute and shortcut for trusting a faultless God.

Once King David repented of his sin and judgment had been pronounced, he was instructed to build an altar at the threshing floor of a man named Araunah. When the King approached Araunah to purchase this piece of property, Araunah immediately offered it to him for free together with things that would be needed for offering the sacrifice that God required.

King David’s cheap thinking changed during this process of judgment over his sin. He refused the generous offer of Araunah. Myself, I don’t know if my reaction would have been so noble! I would’ve probably thought, “Praise God, He has provided!” rejoicing that I would save money instead of spending. Instead of thinking cheaply as I most likely would have done, the King declared boldly:

2 Samuel 24:24a NKJ “Then the king said to Araunah, ‘No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing…’”

Offerings and sacrifices really aren’t doing anything for us if they are cheap or free. There are no “roll back” deals on our offerings to God, nor are there any “buy 1 get 1 free” deals in what we give to Him. An offering isn’t an offering, nor is a sacrifice a sacrifice until it has cost us something. What happens when we choose to pay the price instead of looking to get something for nothing?

2 Samuel 24:25 NKJ “And David built there an altar to the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the Lord heeded the prayers for the land, and the plague was withdrawn from Israel.”

It turns out that the old adage we have heard is true – you get what you pay for.

 

Posted in Sacrifice, Serving

Savings

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Spending money is something everyone does on a relatively frequent basis. While what people spend their money on differs according to budget and need, the truth of the matter is that we all spend money. Today, our daughter had her yearly dental exam (no cavities!), next week I get my eyes checked, and the following week my husband gets his teeth checked and you know whose teeth get checked last. The LAST thing I want to do is spend money on my teeth but it has to be done. So money is being spent, not on “fun” things but necessary things. After our visit to the dentist, however, to celebrate a no cavities report, we did pick up a tub of ice cream for our daughter. Perhaps not the best thing to celebrate a good dentist’s report with with but, oh well, she is our #4 baby and we aren’t as rigid as we used to be with the first 3. Maybe I owe those guys a few ice creams!

There’s another currency that we all spend but we don’t take time to consider budgeting that currency. This kind of spending is very unpopular among Christians because it takes away from our personal plans. Because we work as hard as we do, time off is precious. The kids need activities, the parents need time together, and everyone needs “me” time. There’s very little time to fit anything else in.

We budget, plan, save, research our purchases, and try to be wise. We work hard to make every penny stretch to its farthest point, and rightly so. Though being wise with our money is a command that the Lord Jesus Himself taught (Matthew 25:14-29), there is another type of spending that we are called to. This spending is, in many ways, more costly to us than purchasing a new home or car. We are called to spend ourselves –

2 Corinthians 12:15 NKJ “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls…”

Would that spending our lives was as easy as spending money! What does the author of this verse, Paul, mean by spending himself? He was saying that he was ready to spend himself, his energy, and resources for the sake of others.

Philippians 2:17 NKJ “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

Paul rejoiced in giving all that he had, and all that he had was his service to others. It doesn’t seem that Paul was overly wealthy. I get the impression that he had enough to make ends meet through his tent making as well as sporadic support he received from the churches he ministered to. He was so committed to serving those he was sent to, he preached no matter what – if he had support or not, somehow he carried on preaching and teaching (see Acts 18:1-4; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Cor. 11:7-10). He was intent on spending himself as currency – what were the goods he was receiving in return? The people in the churches he helped plant, establish, and oversee – what a priceless treasure.

Matthew 20:25-28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, You know that the rules of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

When we receive Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, we also are challenged by God to offer ourselves totally in service to God by serving others. Serving God does not consist of sweeping the church floor or cleaning the church nursery in and of itself. When we do such things as sweep the church or clean the nursery, we are doing so in order to serve those people who will come and use the facilities. God doesn’t need the floor to be clean – the people do. God doesn’t need a clean nursery – the babies do. As we serve to meet the needs of people, we are serving God. This service doesn’t stop when we leave the church’s place of meeting; it increases in importance as we serve people in our communities and in our world.

Galatians 5:13 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

How can we practically serve in the middle of the busy lives that we live? Family is priority, so is work; how do we budget our time? I’ve heard it said by a very wise woman who once reprimanded me for complaining that I didn’t have “enough time” to get things done, that God made the day with 24 hours in it. He, in His wisdom, gave us just the right amount of time to get things done every day. The challenge is to be wise with how we use our time.

While time can’t be relived, we are told we can redeem the time (Eph. 5:16 NKJ “Redeem the time for the days are evil.”). How is it possible to redeem something that we can’t have a refund on?

Colossians 4:5 NKJ “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.”

Living wisely before the world implies serving them, loving them, bringing them to a place where they can experience their own eternal redemption. One of the greatest family outings we can plan with our children is a day spent serving others in our communities, giving ourselves freely to those who have nothing to offer as payment. Balancing fun times with family as well as meaningful times serving others with family is a great skill that will not only impact those we are serving, but our children as well, for eternity. I challenge you to find that balance in your family life; I can promise you the dividends will be greater than a padded 401k.

Go on a spending spree today and take your loved ones with you. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of money to spend – spend yourself and serve others. Whoever knew we could redeem time?

God is so amazing.

 

Posted in Fasting, Offering, Sacrifice

Day 11 – Vultures

vultures-1081751_1920A common sight in Africa, vultures can regularly be seen circling the skies in search of their next meal. They are opportunistic carnivores meaning they don’t like to work for their food. When they are circling above and they see that lions have brought down their prey, you can be sure they will signal to their vulture friends that lunch is served.

While fully capable of fending for themselves like other birds of prey, vultures prefer to take what isn’t theirs. They are large birds, intimidating in appearance, and will protest loudly when challenged. But in the end, when stood up to, will fly away only to return and try again.

Vultures are thieves; they steal what doesn’t belong to them. You might think upon initial observation that vultures are fearful – but the more you watch them it’s obvious that they are not fearful – they’re just plain lazy, resourceful, and clever. They know that the mighty lion can easily bring them down with one swipe of their paw. They know that they put their very lives at risk to steal from the lion, but they are gambling on the lion’s becoming weary of chasing them away as they won’t easily give up on a free meal.

Lions will eat until they are gorged with meat as they often go long periods of time without bringing down an animal for a meal. For every time they are successful at bringing down a meal, there are 4 or 5 other attempts when they have failed. The effort they put out and the danger they put themselves in when hunting (for animals with sharp hooves and horns won’t go down easily) takes much of their energy. Once they have hunted and eaten, they often don’t want to bother with chasing away the vultures. The problem is if they don’t chase away the vultures, there will be no leftovers to eat when they get hungry again.

Vultures don’t announce their arrival. While they are often seen in groups, they search alone for carcasses. Once a carcass has been sighted, one lone vulture will begin to circle and others will soon join him. Then, the familiar circling pattern of vultures overhead can be seen. At first just a few birds will land, tentatively approaching their targeted meal. Once the first bites have been taken, those circling overhead land swiftly for their meal. Their work must be swift, as other scavengers, hyenas and jackals, or the ones who originally took down the kill, like lions, are sure to be nearby. There’s not much time so their work is in earnest.

Genesis 15:11 NLT “Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.”

God had called Abram out from among his relatives to go to an unknown land. Abram in obedience left everything he knew and traveled without knowing where his final destination would be. He only knew that God was faithful, promised him a great family and nation that would be born from his family, and He was making a covenant with Abram to prove His faithfulness.

Abram, with great effort, had come to this point in his life and offered sacrifices to God. In no time at all, the vultures began to circle and swoop down to eat what he had worked hard to give to God. Abram was tired, but spent an entire night chasing away the vultures. At the end of the process, Abram’s journey to seeing God’s promise to him began as God made a covenant with him.

I’ve learned that what I’ve laid at the altar as a sacrifice to God needs protection from the vultures. Like the mighty lion, it only takes one swipe to shoo them away but the very appearance of a vulture can be intimidating and they will surely return to try again.

The vultures are circling; they’re searching for a way to quickly steal what doesn’t belong to them. The question is am I ready to protect what I’ve offered? Or, am I willing to let circumstances, the vultures of hailstorms (see Day 10 blog), weariness, doubt, and fear rob me of my future?

No, I won’t let a vulture take my sacrifice.