Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tightly Wrapped and Immobilized

This morning I woke up and I had wrapped myself like a burrito in my sheets. I suppose in the coolness of the night, I tucked and rolled a few times too many!  I panicked because I wanted to move but I couldn't.  It was like I was paralyzed.  I quickly realized what happened and was able to unroll myself, but for a split second I was seriously getting claustrophobic!  Has that ever happened to you?

As I began to slowly wake up, my thoughts turned to a scripture verse in Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

That word "entangles" was running through my mind so I wondered if somehow, through my sheet burrito, God was teaching me something.  I prayed and asked Him what it could mean and what I could learn from it.  (Yes, I do think God is always teaching us things...I just think we often chalk these moments up to "coincidence" or "chance" and miss the whole teaching moment).


As I meditated on the words of this scripture, I began to realize that during the night, while I was sleeping and unaware, I had inadvertently wrapped myself up in the sheet as I tossed and turned.  The scripture tells us to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.." and so I began to realize that when we are sleeping, we are oblivious to what is going on around us.  We get tangled up and immobilized without even realizing it.

There is a sin that does that very thing to us in our lives...it is the sin of disengagement.  It's when we pull away and decide we just don't care anymore.  It's where life starts to get hard or we get disappointed in someone's actions toward us, so we give up on our faith in God.  We stop focusing on Christ and begin to focus on other things - usually other people.  We begin to search for comfort instead of the Comforter.  Before we realize it, we are entangled and paralyzed - unable to move.  And it's sneaky...we must always be on guard for this!


A great example of this in my own life would be a few years ago when we went on tour in Charlotte to find the perfect church (on a side note....don't waste your time, the perfect church does not exist on this earth)!  We seriously tried out so many different churches that my head was spinning.  When we didn't find the perfect church, we decided to just not go and have church at home, where we felt safe and comfortable.  Never mind the fact that the Bible is very clear that we are never to give up meeting together, but I digress...


This disengagement had some pretty severe consequences.  We became cynical, judgmental of our fellow brothers and sisters and we constantly walked in offense.  We had inadvertently wrapped ourselves up in our own issues so tightly that we were paralyzed.  God, in His grace, released us from this sin that so easily entangled us.  I thank Him every day for not giving up on us!  But it made me so aware of how easily sin can entangle us when we choose to sleep instead of fight.


I pray that if you are feeling angry, hurt, offended or ready to give up, that you would seek the Lord and ask Him to show you the truth of the situation.  Please, don't waste another moment being wrapped up and immobilized.  How will we ever run this race marked out for us with perseverance if we are tangled up and angry all the time?  Well, the scripture above clearly and beautifully gives us the strategy for that:  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

One more thing...that "joy set before Him" that is spoken about in that verse...that's you, my friend.  You and I are the joy that was set before Jesus - the thing that brought Him so much joy that He was willing to give His life for us.  How can we ever walk in offense or be angry with what others are doing when we realize that the God of the Universe finds joy in a relationship with us?  He will never disappoint us, He will never give up on us.

Hebrews 12:15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God.  Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Overwhelmed

I've been overwhelmed the past few days.  Don't get me wrong...it's actually a good kind of over-whelmed.  I've met a lot of fascinating people in my new job at SIM.  Each day has been pretty much back to back meetings with people as I get to know their position in the ministry and what they do.  I'm hearing the most amazing stories!  There is so much passion here and so much purpose!  It's just awesome. 

I'm also overwhelmed because I never realized the extent of SIM's reach.  There are missionaries all over the world - people who preach, of course, but also nurses, doctors, dentists, teachers, construction workers, secretaries, businessmen, photographers, videographers, sports coaches, you name it!  It's amazing to hear the stories of changed lives, saved lives and transformed communities as these people bring the Good News of Jesus to areas all over the world using their gifts and talents.

I'm also overwhelmed because I am so honored that God would choose me to be a part of what He is doing in the world through SIM.  I get to be a part of the Creative Communication Team that tells the world what SIM does and how they can be a part of what God is doing, too!  I mean...really??  What a privilege.  I feel the trumpet is being lifted to my lips and God is telling me to blow it as loud as I can and let the world know what He is up to!

Can you see why I'm overwhelmed?

Being a follower of Christ is the ultimate adventure.  He is truly a very creative God with amazing opportunities for each of us to share His Truth with the world in the gifts and talents He has graciously given to us.  If you are up for a challenge, come see what adventures may await you!  If sharing the Gospel in creative ways with the world excites you, begin the adventure by clicking here!  I hope you will see how God can use you (yes YOU) to be a part of what He is up to in and around the world.

It's truly overwhelming.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A New Chapter Begins!

I love adventure.  I suppose if you know me at all, you know that I mean it when I say that!  That's why I'm so excited about the new chapter God is writing in my life.  As of Monday, I will begin my position of International Communications Coordinator at SIM International (Serving in Mission)!  I'm thrilled about this opportunity and cannot wait to see what God has in store!

In case you don't know who SIM is, I wanted to give you a brief introduction (as stated on the website, www.sim.org):

SIM is a community of God's people who delight to worship him and are passionate about the Gospel, seeking to fulfill the mission of Jesus Christ in the world.

More specifically, SIM is an international mission organization with more than 1,600 active missionaries serving in over 40 countries. SIM members serve God among many diverse people groups in Africa, Asia, and South America.

SIM members are "international" themselves, representing over 30 nationalities—including nations that in the past only received missionaries. They also serve in a wide variety of career fields. The SIM family can use people of every ethnicity who have almost any skill imaginable!

This opportunity to work side by side with people all over the world who share my passion to share the Good News of Jesus Christ is such a tremendous thrill for me!  Please pray as I step into this new position, that God will give me grace and wisdom...that He will equip and use me mightily...and that He would be glorified! 

You can get to know more about SIM and our mission by joining us on Twitter and Facebook and by checking out the website at www.sim.org

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sounding the Alarm

"Mom!  Turn the light off!  It hurts and I can't open my eyes!"  That's what Kennedy said as I tried to wake her up this morning.  Funny thing is...about an hour earlier, I felt the same way about my alarm clock when it loudly and obnoxiously beeped and I wanted to toss it across the room.  I just hate waking up!  But I'm always glad when I do.  I mean, without waking up, what kind of life would I be living?  I'd miss it all!

Lately, I have heard many preachers and Christian speakers talk about how, as the church, we need to "Wake Up!".  I'm not kidding...I hear it everywhere.  I was speaking with a friend yesterday and he told me that the theme for this years Passion Conference was appropriately titled "Awakening".  No surprise.

Why do I keep hearing this same message?  I know one thing.  When I hear the same message over and over again like this there is no denying it's a message God wants me to hear.  Revelation 3:1-2 is a warning from Jesus Christ to the church of Sardis - a church that had the appearance of being alive, but it was actually quite dead inside (reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 23 to the religious leaders - how they were "white washed tombs", clean on the outside but dead bones on the inside with no life).  So Jesus says to them in verse 2 "Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead.  I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God."

Could this be the message He is telling us today?  I read something in The Hole in Our Gospel yesterday that sent shivers up my spine.  The author, Richard Stearns, was talking about Matthew 25:34-36, when Jesus said "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.  I was a stranger, and you invited me in your house.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing.  I was sick, and you cared for me.  I was in prison, and you visited me.'"

The people were delighted but confused.  When they had done something like this?  Jesus told them that it was when they did it to the least of these, they were doing it to Him. What Jesus is telling us is that when we treat others with kindness and love, it's just as if it is Him we are serving.  I love this.  But do I really do this?  Richard Stearns paraphrased those verses for today's reader and I think his observations were very accurate....

"For I was hungry, while you had all you needed.  I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water.  I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported.  I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes.  I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness.  I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved."

Ouch.  How true is this of the church today?  So many of us have it all wrong.  We think we are here to set the world straight, to correct all the "wrong" behavior and to judge those who are not believers.  We think we are here to make money and be materially prosperous.  But not according to Christ.  According to Him, the most important commandments are simple:  Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself.    No judgment there.  No condemnation.  No self-righteousness.  When we love God with all of our heart and love others, people will see Jesus in us and our lives will be a witness, not our arguments and opinions.  Unfortunately, most of the world looks at Christians as a bunch of people who are against things...we're so busy being against things that nobody sees what we actually stand for!

It's hard to hear the truth sometimes.  I imagine that is why the Pharisees had Christ crucified.  After all, His harshest words were for the religious hypocrites.  Nobody likes it when the alarm goes off or the light comes on - it even seems offensive!  We want to swing at the person who turned the light on or throw the alarm clock across the room!  But were it not for the awakening, we would be asleep and we'd miss it.  Jesus' words to us are an alarm.  We can throw it across the room or blame Him and get angry with Him or we can thank Him for loving us enough to wake us up and allow us to be a part of what He is doing to change the world.

Jesus told the church of Sardis to wake up and to strengthen what little remained.  He went on to say in Revelation 3:3 "Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly.  Repent and turn to me again.  If you don't wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief."

He tells us to "Go back...".  Could it be that we need to remember, in humility, where we came from?  What did He save us from?  What did we ever do to deserve that salvation?  What makes us think we have any rights to judge those who have not accepted His gift yet?  Shouldn't we, instead, be loving them and serving them?  It's easy to get cocky and forget where we came from.  I'm guilty of this, as well.  But I'm praying God will give me the wisdom and strength to never forget what He rescued me from so many years ago.

The alarm is going off and it's screaming at us:  Don't forget where you came from! Nobody likes to wake up, but let's remember...if we don't wake up and get up, we will miss it completely.  Christ, in His kindness, is calling us to love.  It is the Holy Spirit's job to convict people of their sin.  It is God's job to judge sin.  It is our job to love, as Christ loved us.

Romans 2:1-4

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad and you have no excuse!  When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge do these very same things.  And we know that God, in His justice, will punish anyone who does such things.  Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God's judgment when you do the same things?  Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you?  Can't you see that His kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Help Wanted

I was out washing my car one day a few years back (not a chore I enjoy) and I didn't have a lot of time so I was trying to hurry through it.  My girls were quite young at this point and they came running out to the driveway saying "Mommy!  Mommy!  Can we help!  Let us help!"  My heart sank.  I wanted to tell them "No thanks, Mommy's got this" but I could tell by their expressive faces that they were eager to help and they wanted to be a part of what I was doing.  Ergh.

These are the thoughts that were going through my mind:
  • If they help, this is going to take a lot longer. 
  • I don't really need any help.
  • I don't even want help!
  • I will have to do it all over again later because they will inevitably miss spots along the way.  
  • If they help I will have to take the time to train them, stand over them and it will be a lot messier because the hose would probably not stay on the car. 
  • I really, really, really, really wish they didn't look so cute and eager to help because it's going to make this a lot harder to say no!
Every single part of me wanted to tell them no, but instead, I said "Oh, thank you so much!  I really need your help, girls!  Grab a sponge and get over here, let me teach you how to do this!"  As the words left my lips, I found myself cringing and I felt bad about that.  Sometimes, as a mom, I need to remember that it's just not about me!  Teaching my girls to do something new and encouraging them to be a part of the chores is something I need to take the time to do if I want them to feel like they are responsible members of our family.  So, I took one for the team.  And yes, I did have to re-do it, I got super messy and it took about an hour longer than it should have.  And....I wouldn't trade the memory for the world.

You do realize that God doesn't "need" our help, don't you?  That's what I thought about as I watched them beaming with excitement as they ran the sponges across the bottom of the car (the only place they could reach).  God taught me, through this moment, that His love for me and His desire to allow me to be a part of His work is not because He "needs me" at all - it's because He loves me.  He wants me to experience the responsibilities of being a child of His.  He wants me to enjoy the benefits of my labors.  He wants to teach me how to use my gifts and watch me grow.  He delights in seeing me "help" Him, even if it makes things a little messier, takes a little more time and even if He has to go clean up after me when it's all said and done!

When Jesus rose Lazarus from the dead (John chapter 11), He proved to us that He wants us to be a part of His miracles and works.  When He got to the tomb where Lazarus was dead and buried, He did something that is subtle but so important to understand.  He asked those who were there to "roll the stone aside" and later, once He rose Lazarus from the dead, He told them "Unwrap him and let him go!" Now, we know that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, could have easily made the stone disappear.  The burial cloths could have just fallen off or disappeared after He rose him from the dead.  But He chose to use the people who were there to be a part of the miracle!  He didn't need them, but He included them.  Imagine their excitement and joy!  To be a part of one of the greatest miracles of all time!  Not just an observer....but an active participant.

The truth is, we are not "needed" by God.  He could just speak something and it could happen.  He doesn't need anything - He is everything.  He does allow us, though, to be a part of what He is doing.  I think I got a glimpse of why He does this that day in my driveway with my little girls.  There is nothing more fulfilling than to see your children accomplish things they never thought they could do.  There is nothing more exciting than seeing them grow in confidence and to stand with them, teaching them to be productive and to have a sense of accomplishment. Seeing the looks on their faces after the car was washed and then watching them run in and tell my husband "Look what we did, Daddy!!" was one of the most glorious moments of my day.   I would've missed out on all of that if I had turned them away and done it myself.

Yes, I believe God could do it all without us.  But you know what?  He doesn't want to. 

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Radio Interview

This morning I spent some time on the Morning Show with Brent and Janelle at The House FM.  If you missed the interview, you can click here to listen to it now.  Survivor: Heroes Vs. Villains starts tonight on CBS at 8pm EST!  You can bet I'll be watching, as three of my former cast-mates are competing for the million dollars!  Go Courtney, James & Amanda! :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

He is On Our Side

When we were talking with the press prior to being stranded in China on Survivor, I was approached by a reporter who was a little cynical about my faith in God.  He mockingly asked me "So...since you're the 'Christian' of the group, does that mean God is on your side?" (then he snickered)  I thought for a moment and then said, "Sir, God is on everyone's side.  I just happen to be on His."  He nodded, the smile left his face and then he said "I hope you do really well, but I don't think you will.  This is a tough game for a girl like you."

As I reflect on that conversation, I must say that I remember thinking he was probably right.  I knew I was in over my head and that it was a vicious game, but I also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was there for a purpose.  God was on my side.  It didn't mean I would win the million dollars, be the best Survivor player or that everyone would love me.  But I did have an incredible experience that completely changed my life and challenged me on many levels.  God's not interested in having me "win" or be "successful" in the world's eyes.  He is more concerned with my character and having a relationship with me.  That, to me, is so freeing!  I don't have to impress Him.  I just love that.

God loves you, too.  He's on your side.  No matter what you've done.  He loves the widow, the poor, the thief, the whore, the sinner, the saint, the rich....all of us.  The question is not "Is God on my side?"  But rather..."Am I on His?" He is captured by us.  Will we be captured by Him?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Truth Suppressed

Nobody can tell my husband and me that our kids are not ours.  I mean, I guess they could tell us that, but it wouldn't make it true.  We'd laugh at them.  How preposterous!  When you look at our children, you can see my husband's eyes, my smile, and they all have little quirks that are just like ours.  Not to mention, we were there when they were born.  We cried when we held them for the first time.  It was beautiful.  Nope, nobody could ever convince me that they do not come from us! 

The other day, after reading the poem my daughter wrote (below), I watched a video about creation from the Truth Project and it was powerful.  The video talked about how created things have a creator.  Period.  Think about it - every picture painted was painted by an artist.  We wouldn't look at a picture painted by an artist and say "Wow, that's beautiful how that randomly happened."  Things don't just randomly happen or appear. There is a creative process.  It was quite thought-provoking.  My heart began to break as I thought about the way so many seem to say "I don't believe there is a God.  This all just sort of happened...evolved.  So, there is no creator.  I'm just a product of "star stuff"."

Really?  Romans 1:18-19 says "God shows His anger from heaven against all wicked, sinful people who suppress the Truth by their wickedness.  They know the Truth about God because He has made it obvious to them.  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.  Through everything God made, they can clearly see His invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God."

When we look around at all the beauty that God created, we cannot deny that He created it.  It would be like someone looking at my kids and telling me "Those are not your children."  Nobody telling me that would make it true.  I already know the truth - they are my children!  One look at them and there is no doubt.  But if someone wanted to believe that they were not my children, they could.  They could suppress the truth.  But that would never make it less true.  It would just be a truth suppressed.

God has done something huge.  He has chosen to reveal Himself to us so that we would have answers and so we would know Him.  He has given us His written Word and He is communicating His Truth to us through His creation.  He lovingly and willingly gives us answers to questions that we can never find the answers to without Him.  He is reaching out to us, yelling at us through His creation, as my daughter so beautifully put in her poem below.  But if we choose to suppress the truth by our wickedness and choose to believe lies that He doesn't exist, we have that choice. He will honor our choice because God is not going to bully Himself into our lives.  But we will never find peace and we will never find the Truth if we don't wake up and open our eyes.

Even Darwin said "...I am quite conscious that my speculations run beyond the bounds of true science...It is a mere rag of a hypothesis with as many flaw(s) & holes as sound parts." (Darwin quoted to Asa Gray & cited by Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin, NY: WW. North and Company, 1991 page 456-475)  Remember, Darwin's Theory is a theory.  According to the dictionary, a theory is a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact; contemplation, speculation, guess, conjecture.

I honestly think it takes more faith to not believe in God as the Creator of the Universe than it does to actually believe in Him.  Where is the security in that?  Where is the purpose in that?  I choose to believe in the Creator, God, who beautifully and perfectly made each and every one of us for a purpose with a plan and for His glory!   But people do have a choice in what they will believe - we can believe what Darwin clearly said is a "theory" or we can believe what the Bible plainly says is the Truth.

I pray that as you look around at the beauty God created today that you will take a moment to thank Him. His creation is a beautiful reflection of His majesty and love for us.

Psalm 19
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
      The skies display his craftsmanship.
 2 Day after day they continue to speak;
      night after night they make him known.
 3 They speak without a sound or word;
      their voice is never heard.
 4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth,
      and their words to all the world.
   God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.
 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
      It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
 6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens
      and follows its course to the other end.
      Nothing can hide from its heat.
 7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect,
      reviving the soul.
   The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy,
      making wise the simple.
 8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
      bringing joy to the heart.
   The commands of the Lord are clear,
      giving insight for living.
 9 Reverence for the Lord is pure,
      lasting forever.
   The laws of the Lord are true;
      each one is fair.
 10 They are more desirable than gold,
      even the finest gold.
   They are sweeter than honey,
      even honey dripping from the comb.
 11 They are a warning to your servant,
      a great reward for those who obey them.
 12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
      Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
      Don’t let them control me.
   Then I will be free of guilt
      and innocent of great sin.
 14 May the words of my mouth
      and the meditation of my heart
   be pleasing to you,
      O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Creation

My daughter, Stephanie, wrote this beautiful poem as she watched the sunrise at the beach this weekend.  It took my breath away.  I wanted to share it with you this morning.  I pray you are as blessed by it as I am!

Creation yells Your existence.
The sky explodes with color of Your majesty.
The trees wave in the wind.
The rivers flow in a constant rhythm like Your love.
The dead trees are made new in Spring.
Color is replenished; life is made new.
The sunrise awakens the sleeping.
The sunset comforts the oppressed.
The birds of the air soar in freedom.
Mountains are small compared to Your Greatness.
The tide rolls in and out, expressing Your heartbeat.
The breeze kisses my cheek.
The warmth of the sun is like a hug from You.
All around me, your beauty is displayed.
My mind can't even fathom
The work of Your hands shouts Your praise.
No one is without excuse.

Got Questions?

GotQuestions?org