Friday, June 29, 2012

Finishing the Race - Faithfully

Do you ever feel like the Hare in the story about the Tortoise and the Hare?  Just to remind you...he may have been quick and impressive out of the starting gate, but he didn't finish the race.  I feel like I can get very zealous for things and begin running toward the finish line, only to get exhausted and distracted, stopping along the path in order to rest.  Meanwhile, my passion fizzles, I become bitter and exhausted and my heart begins to change.  That was why I prayed and asked God, "Why do I do this?"

The beginning of this answer began when I was reading Matthew 23:23: 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Did you catch that?  Jesus spoke these words and He said the more important matters were justice, mercy and faithfulness.  Faithfulness.  That was what I lacked.  How had I missed this? 

I've read this verse many times but never caught that word mixed in there like that.  I was so convicted.  This verse would not let me go - all day it ran through my mind.  I had a check-list going in my head about all the things I'd started and not finished. 

At first, I was overwhelmed with what other people must think of me, but I quickly remembered that it wasn't of my concern what anyone else might think.  I knew God wasn't pleased...and that's all that mattered.  The more I worried about what others thought, the more I lost focus of what He was trying to accomplish in my life through this difficult realization.

I'm thrilled to say that even though this was a hard lesson to learn, it was a good one.  God has shown me why I don't finish sometimes.  He has also reminded me, very mercifully I might add, of all the things I have finished and continue to press toward, faithfully.  I love how He balances things out so I'm not overwhelmed with all I'm doing wrong by throwing in the things I'm actually doing right!

I wanted to share with you what He has shown me in case it might help you in your walk with Him.  If you find yourself unfaithful in certain areas, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What was my motive for beginning the task in the first place?  If your answer is "because nobody else would do it", "because I couldn't say no to him/her", "because I want to be needed" or "because nobody else can do it as well as I can", you're in for some trouble.  The motive for doing something, for serving, for giving of your time must always come from a heart of obedience to what God is calling you to do.  If we want to be faithful, we must be sure that we are walking in His will and doing what He wants us to do, otherwise we are working in our own strength and we will lose heart.  Ask Him to examine your motive before making commitments.  Proverbs 16:2 "People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives."
  2. Did I pray about it and seek wise counsel before deciding to do the task?  Sometimes my biggest problem comes from committing to do something that I've not prayed about or talked with my husband and/or mentor about.  I hear of a need and I jump to fill it because it seems like the right thing to do and I enjoy serving.  I go in with full fervor and then fizzle out within weeks.  Even if things "seem" to be right, we must pray.  You must be in agreement with your spouse and/or seek wise counsel before committing to do something.  Proverbs 12:15 "Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others."
  3. Am I doing this because I think God needs me to?  I think we often subconsciously think "What would God do without me?" When in reality, God is perfectly capable of filling a position!  He is God - He is powerful and He is not desperate for our help.  He gives us opportunities to help, but just like when our kids "help us" in the kitchen, it would probably be easier if He just did it by Himself.  But He loves us and He gives opportunities to help for us to grow, learn and become more like Jesus.  But, just like if our kids tried to do it all, they would quickly become discouraged and overwhelmed, when we try to do it all, we do the same.  My mentor once said "If you feel overwhelmed, you're probably doing something God hasn't asked you to do."  
  4. Did I hurry through the decision making process?  Whew, this is a big one...did you give yourself time in making a decision to commit?  If not, you may have acted hastily.  Personally, I've decided to implement a 3-day period of prayer and counsel prior to making a decision to serve in a specific area.  This gives me time to consider, to calm down from all of my initial excitement and zeal to "save the world" and helps me to slow down.  I have seen, time and time again, that hasty decisions are usually not the right ones.  Slow down, give yourself time, and if the person asking you doesn't grant you the time to pray about it and seek wise counsel, then you probably don't want to work with them anyway.  Proverbs 19:2 "Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes."
  5. Am I being led by the Spirit of God?  This is huge.  If I am being led by the Spirit, I will not gratify the desires of my flesh (Galatians 5:16).  If I am being led by Him and the task is something He wants me to do, I will have the power within me to finish.  I will be given supernatural strength, fervor and determination.  Otherwise, I'm working in my own strength.  We all know that without Him leading us, we will not succeed.  He must be the One we follow.  Not the opinions of others, not the approval of others and not the manipulations of others (including our own selves!).  If you are led by Him, your motivation will be a pure heart-motive that overflows from a love and compassion for what you are doing - not a desire to fill a role or be someone important.  
  6. Am I giving up too easily?  Sometimes we are absolutely called to do something, but then things get hard.  We begin to feel like we cannot possibly make a difference - we are just one person!  But God says our hard work will be rewarded.  He says there is much to be gained by our faithfulness in not only the big things, but the small things.  If you are doing what God has called you to do, you can still find yourself becoming discouraged when things seem difficult or impossible.  Galatians 6:9 reminds us:  "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Ask God for His help to persevere.  Your faith may be tested, but James 1:3 says that will give your endurance an opportunity to grow.  Never, never, never, never give up.  He is faithful, even when we are not.

Psalm 119:29-31
Keep me from deceitful ways;
   be gracious to me and teach me your law.
I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
   I have set my heart on your laws.
I hold fast to your statutes, LORD;
   do not let me be put to shame. 

2 Timothy 2:13
If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.
 
 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smell My Life

One day a few years back I had a very funny conversation with my daughter, Peyton.  She was curious...why was the neighbor dog always coming over into our yard and then sniffing Buddy's butt?  I giggled and remembered many, many years ago when the exact same question flew out of my precocious and curious mind.  I just said, "Well, honey, that is how doggies get to know each other!  She quickly replied, "Wow, I'm glad people don't have to do that!"

Me too!

I got to thinking after our conversation, though.  In 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 the Bible tells us that "Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.  But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  To those who are perishing, we are the dreadful smell of death and doom.  But to those who are being saved, we are a life giving perfume."


I know we don't literally go around sniffing other people to get an impression like dogs do, but I really do believe our lives give off a fragrance that is either pleasant or not so pleasant in the spiritual realm.  It's a strange but Biblical truth.  I remember visiting a friend once who wrote me a sweet note afterwards that said, "Leslie, thank you for bringing the fragrance of Jesus into our home."  Wow.  To this day, that was the greatest compliment I've ever received!

But have you ever tried to make someone like you who just didn't?  It's exhausting, isn't it?  I have often been known to be a people pleaser but no matter how hard I try, I cannot make someone like me.  Especially if they are among those who are "perishing" - those who do not believe in Christ and honestly think I've gone off the deep end.  Apparently, according to the above Scripture, I'm the "dreadful smell of death and doom" to them and nothing I could do in my own power would ever change their mind.  Only God can change someone, not me. I'm reminded during those times that man's rejection is always God's protection. 

It seems safer and less exhausting to live to please God, who finds my aroma to be very pleasing and pleasant and to pray for those who do not accept me for who I am, instead of fighting with them or trying to be someone I'm not in order to make them like me.  God loves me just the way I am and every day I am so thankful that His love for me is unconditional.  It's rather freeing, isn't it?

Truly, I have no idea how this all came about from a conversation about doggie sniffing habits with my little girl, but I digress.  God's got some sense of humor, doesn't He? :)

What does your life smell like these days?

Galatians 1:10 Obviously, I'm not trying to win the approval of people.  If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.

Monday, June 18, 2012

It's Official!

Today we announced on His Radio that I will not be temporarily covering the Morning Friends Show with Rob Dempsey anymore.  From now on, it's permanent!  I've accepted the position as Co-Host of the show and look forward to encouraging people and starting them off on a positive note each morning with Rob from 5:30-9:00am EST!  I'm super excited!

If you want to join us, there are tons of options for you to listen in.  You can listen online from anywhere in the world at www.hisradio.com or download the app for your smart phone and listen from your phone at your App Store.  Or, if you are in the NC, SC or GA area, here's the coverage map for you:



Looking forward to encouraging you Monday-Friday! 

With all of my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever, for your love for me is very great.   -Psalm 86:12




Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Daddy's Girl

I was at the beach right after Christmas of 2010 when I witnessed this.  She was maybe six years old, running down the white, sandy beach with a kite in her hand.  It was cold and windy on this beautiful winter day in the Carolinas.  As she ran, the kite began to climb but she was so excited that she let the string out too fast and she seemed frustrated as the kite started to sink.  Her tired legs would run no more and she seemed more interested in watching the kite than in getting it to soar.  She let out a loud cry as the kite took a nose dive straight into the sand.


Tears filled her eyes.  As she looked up through the tears, she saw her daddy running toward her.  "Let me help you, sweetheart."  He rolled the string up slowly and as she watched his every move, he checked the kite for damage and untangled the tail.  Once the kite was ready, he leaned down to her to give her instructions and showed her a short demonstration of how to fly the kite higher.  He jogged and slowly let the string go as the kite soared.  Before it could get too high, he pulled it back in and rolled it up, handing her the kite as her wide eyes beamed with hope!

This time, her daddy stood beside her as she began to let the string go.  The kite began to climb steadily as she and her daddy ran together down the beach.  The kite was soaring higher and higher and I could hear her daddy cheering her on, "You've got it!  Great job!"  Her excitement was fading as she realized the higher the kite got, the harder it was for her to hold on to it while the strong wind pulled on it with all of its might.  She looked at her daddy again and said "Help me daddy!"  She could no longer carry this load on her own and he was right there with her, ready to help her at a moment's notice.  He took the kite from her, pulled it in, rolled it up and put it away.

It wasn't time yet.  But her wise daddy allowed her to get a taste of what was to come.  When she was strong enough, she would be able to do more, but for now her strength was still small. But it could wait - because she had so much to learn.  I smiled wide as I saw her take a hold of her daddy's strong hand and skip along the shore now, right beside her hero - content to just be "daddy's girl".


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Living in the Shadow of a Stereotype

I've always been fascinated by how Christians can be perceived by the world sometimes. We are often judged by others before we even open our mouths to say anything. Once some people find out what we believe, some people already make up their minds that they are not going to like us and it doesn't matter what we say or do, there's no changing their minds.

I've thought about this a lot because true, biblical Christianity is very loving, genuine, and forgiving. Why wouldn't people want to be around people who are promoting these values? Sure, we don't like sin (although we still do it and hate that we do it) but we are told to love those who sin, regardless, remembering that we, too, are sinners saved only by God's grace and our faith. We are able to do that because we are not the Judge, God is. We have been forgiven of our sin not because we've earned it or impressed God with our own "righteousness" but because we put our faith completely Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.  I'll admit - there are many who lose sight of this and insist on judging the world.  But that's not how Jesus told us to live.

Followers of Jesus have a strong desire to share their faith only because they want others to understand the freedom and life-giving truth they have been shown, not because they are trying to push an agenda or get some spiritual commission. We are motivated by our love for people. Our beliefs are based on Scripture, not our own opinions. Our opinions are worthless unless they line up with Scripture. True Christianity is serving and loving, not judging and yelling! But the stereotype is out there - and the loud-mouthed, opinionated, angry ones are usually the ones who get the media attention.

I got a glimpse into a possible reason why people judge Christians when I was reading the book Survivor written by Mark Burnett, the producer of the series. He was talking about Dirk Been, the Christian guy on season one of the series. I'm not sure where Mr. Burnett stands with his faith (I'm certainly not qualified to judge his heart) but he sure does offer some pretty intense insight to this subject in this paragraph from page 59....


Dirk's demise was probably a few Tribal Councils off. But it was sure to come for he was beginning to annoy Tagi. The reason was his Christianity. There seems to be something threatening about a devout person of any faith to non-believers. It's as though a mirror is being held up to their faults. They feel judged. Whenever an individual closer to life's ideal state comes in contact with those drifting farther away - a physically fit person in a room of smokers, a mentally balanced person speaking with someone fragmented and dysfunctional - that person is quietly scorned as a reminder of imperfection. Thus the universal dislike for those seeking a higher plane. Mankind, by its very nature, is an imperfect animal. It's easier to revel in imperfection and mock those taking the bold step towards improvement than to actually attempt the step. On an island that mockery can translate into an easy vote.

I remember reading this before I was ever cast on the show Survivor China. I highlighted it because I thought it was pretty clear that if I were to compete on the show and live my faith out loud, I would not last long according to this insight. That's why when I started the show, my plan was to not talk about my faith initially unless asked. If you watched the show, you know my plan to be stealth-like in my faith didn't work out so well (haha) but I have no regrets. I knew once my faith was made public that I had an opportunity to prove the stereotype wrong. That became my biggest challenge on the show.

If you are being judged, scorned or persecuted for being a Christian, you are not alone. You will probably be made fun of at some point. You will more than likely have to live in the shadow of a stereotype. In a sense, you may even be voted out! Try not to take this personally. We can fight against the stereotype by living the way Jesus told us to - by loving and serving others, no matter what.  After all, isn't that how He lived?  Persecution seems to be something that happens to anyone who takes a stand for something. However, I've found that if we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything. Anything worth believing in is worth the risk!

I'll leave you with this encouragement from 1 Peter 2:19-20...

God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

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