Devotional: Spread the Light (Day 3)

1412403_58877221Day 3 of Seven Devotionals I wrote for Heart Magazine’s Spring 2013 Issue. Scroll down on the blog to see Days 1 & 2.

Day 3

Spread the Light

Col 1:13-14

At the beginning of our church’s Christmas Eve service last year, everyone was given a candle and at the end of the message, our pastor lit the first candle to a man up front. In the dark auditorium, that man passed his light on to the next person and so on. Watching our entire church fill up with pure, radiant light was a powerful expression of how God uses people to pass on His light.

Because of our hope in Christ and the forgiveness we know, we have a responsibility and privilege to share the gospel and carry that hope to others. If you’ve been discouraged in sharing your faith and building and investing into the lives of others, remember that it’s God’s work and power through you to give you the boldness and desire.

If you ask for that boldness, God will grant it to you in unexpected and amazing ways. And being obedient to his command to go and make disciples becomes an exciting adventure. Believe it or not, the more you share His love with other people, the more contagious it is and your own faith is strengthened.

You are the Light of the world. Give your light away to one person today.

five minutes to let it shine

Over the past few Sundays, my pastor Todd has been encouraging our church to share our stories of grace authentically and intentionally with the people we encounter every day right here in Dallas. Last week, I had about five minutes to do what I knew God was impressing upon on my heart.

I was at Jamba Juice and a guy in his 20s was serving my sister-in-law Charis and I our smoothies. I asked him if he was a student and he wasn’t, but did have a kid. Charis talked with him a little bit about nutrition. He was easy to talk to and friendly. He poured the leftover smoothie from my cup and gave the remaining to my son. He also gave us some samples of their breakfast granola and dried fruit.

But that wasn’t it. I knew I was supposed to give him one of the orange cards that I carry in my purse that has the info to our church on it.

Then suddenly, about 3-4 people started coming through the door and he was slammed. 5 minutes pass by. Then 10. Then 15. I told Charis how I really wanted to invite him to our church, but the opportunity wasn’t happening.

I was determined to give him the card so while he was serving customers and getting their smoothies, I stepped in behind the counter. In the midst of all the blenders grinding and chatter, I invited him to come and told him how our church is full of young adults and has a great children’s ministry. I was a little concerned about who could hear me.

His eyes lit up and he smiled. “You know what?” he said. “I moved here a year ago and I’ve been looking for a church. Thank you so much! I’m going to check it out Sunday.”

Really? You are? I thought.

I couldn’t believe it. His response was not what I expected!

While inviting the Jamba Juice guy to church is not the same as presenting the gospel, it was an invitation for him to see the gospel at work in the lives of others. It was a step in the right direction.

I think so many times I wait for the perfect moment to say anything about my faith or my church, and it never happens. I fear what people think of me. I’m sometimes not walking in the spirit, or even know how to articulate my words naturally. I fear I will sound stupid or crazy. This experience taught me to shine my light in whatever window of opportunity exists and to just go for it and be who I am.

No matter what.

Have you had any opportunities to shine your light?

On perfection, good works, and falling short

This particular morning Jeremiah and I were driving down the road on our way to get breakfast when we caught a glimpse of a church’s marquee to our right. In black letters it read: No Perfect People Allowed.

Out of all the crazy church marquee signs out there, this one was a breath of fresh air. I figured the church must have gotten the phrase from John Ortberg’s book.

Growing up in the church, there were times I felt I had to be perfect to be accepted. So much that I kept up a certain image inside the doors and another one on the outside. But I was totally missing the mark in my faith and in the gospel and here’s why:

Perfection or “good behavior” isn’t the goal of our faith. I fall short every time when it is. The goal is depending on God’s grace and love to work in our hearts and transform them. Any good works we produce are evidence of a life that has been changed by Christ. Behavior modification doesn’t mean life change has truly happened from the inside out. Anyone can look holy. And we can’t mistake this for the gospel.

These truths have lifted certain burdens like: If I could just follow that rule closer… If I could sin less in this area… if I could just appear to love that person, then.. This thinking is all about me and what I can do and not on God’s grace to ultimately change my heart and help me put sin to death.

On our drive back with a belly full of chocolate chip pancakes, I glanced at the sign again. While my good works won’t get me anywhere, I became more thankful that an absolute dependence on a perfect Savior to change my stubborn heart, always will.

Do you ever focus too much on good works instead of grace? Any church marquee signs catching your eye lately?

some link love

I love it when a blog post or article written by someone will stick with me all week long. These three posts have inspired and challenged me in a ton of ways.

That being said… it would be silly wrong for me not to share them with you. Enjoy!

Women and Pride: 1 by Sarah Markley. This post got me thinking about the prideful, critical thoughts I’ve had before that I’ve never evaluated or maybe even thought to be sinful. Still chewing on this one.

Heaven isn’t a reductionist Gospel by Ben Arment. Short, but so insightful, this post reminded me that those who have experienced real suffering, hold on to heaven… and that is enough.

–  Article: 6 Ways Fathers Pursue Christ in their Fatherhood by Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29. This post inspired me to help Jeremiah on his journey of fatherhood and the dependance we must have on the gospel as we grow our family.

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series called “Being on Mission with Your Children.” Part one will consist of being a Mommy on Mission and part two will deal with being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage you to read both parts.

Kelly Sauer‘s Twitter bio caught my attention the other day. It read: I dream big and change diapers.

I just love that and it made me think of a little mission statement that’s been ringing in my head since I’ve been re-reading a book I had to read for my Child Developmental Psychology class in college called The Power of Mother Love.

My new-found mission is: I want to change the world, one diaper at a time.

To tell you the truth, however, I didn’t know this would be my desire until God gave me my son John.

I’m learning that he is my mission. He is 15 months old so of course he doesn’t know it yet, but how I give my love away to him now will profoundly influence and shape his life and character and ultimately, who he will become one day.

Many of you know that I’m fresh into being a mommy so I’m not a pro, but I’ve found a little secret that’s helping me to be “on mission” with him each day and to value, above anything else, the importance of who I am to my child.

This might seem way too obvious, but it starts with Slowing Down.

It requires a lot of intentionality on my part to see the world how John is seeing it, to get off my computer or i-Phone, to stop doing the dishes or the laundry, or worrying about this or that, but to really be all there with him. He invites me in to his world every time and his world is already at a much slower pace than mine. The choice is if I will choose to be still, within my own spirit, and embrace his world with him.

I’ve found that when I’m still and engage with him, I’m able to meet his deepest emotional needs by letting him know I hear his words and see each little step he makes. We’re able to capture moments together like when he first says “t-e-n-k you” or learns how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his own. Or when he’s offering to kiss me on the cheek or give me “that look” when he needs something. I can sense his needs easier and I’m there to nurture him whenever he needs it. And he always has a way of knowing whether I’m fully there or not.

My love is more available when I slow down.

Being on Mission as Mommy’s starts with slowing down, to where we are meeting our children’s deepest emotional needs, but that is not the end, it’s the means to the end where we’re slowing down so that we can best live out our faith and instill biblical truth into their lives.

In a hectic, over-worked, disorganized schedule it’s difficult to be all there and live out our faith in front of our children. Nine times out of ten, over commitment results in frustration, anger, restlessness, impatience, depleting quiet times and prayer and we end up not being who we want to be. I’ve been there and it has affected my home. I’m convinced that the tiniest moments of slowing down will help define the huge moments of how our children will grow and come to salvation in the Lord later on.

Of course, their salvation is an act only by God, but we have a huge part to play in how they view and love God for the rest of their lives. What a challenge and responsibility, but what a joy and privilege to help lead them to the cross and have them join us in God’s mission.

If you’re a mommy, and like me, have been wondering where your ministry is and how you can best serve God, remember that you are on mission right where you are, the best place you could ever be…

In your home.

The place where you were meant to help change the world, one diaper at a time.

Will you join me in this mission?

Question: What are some other ways you’re giving your love away and being “on mission” in your home?

Church, Meth, & the Gospel

“The church I grew up in was hypocritical,” my waiter said after I asked him about his church background.

“I’m from east Texas- you know the Meth capital of the world. So people would do Meth and then go to our Baptist church on Sunday,” he said with a somewhat frustrated voice. “They acted so religious too.”

Not being from Texas, I didn’t know east Texas was famous for that.

“Do you go to church anywhere now?” I asked.

“No, I work Sundays and everything… and… church just isn’t for me.”

“Yeah I understand,” I said.

Where’s the life and joy?

My husband chimed in and shared about the ugliness of hypocrisy he saw at times in his church growing up.

Our waiter listened, gazing at the glasses that needed to be filled in the distance. As they conversed, I took some bites out of my steak, completely annoyed at where we stand as “the church” today.

I remember times growing up in the church and putting on my Sunday best. Singing those hymns, smiling, and shaking hands with people, but feeling like I was swimming in a sea of dead people. All I wanted to see was life and joy. I didn’t want to see hypocrisy.

When I went to college, I began to see God’s love like never before through his people and his Word. I grew in intimacy with him as I was surrounded by other Christ-followers. I started to look to God, and not at other people. Since getting married and moving to Dallas several years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about true, biblical community at our church. I’ve experienced what it means to be authentic, confess sins, and share struggles and it’s been life-changing.

The Church isn’t a Building

It’s the gospel over and over again- broken people coming to Jesus. But how come the church is missing it- they’re not even on the map?

I think we all have to face the fact that there is nothing great in us apart from Christ. We are all, in a sense, hypocritical people. That’s why we need a Savior. We need him to help us navigate the rough waters of isolation and pretending.

We have to realize that the church is made up of real people who are supposed to love God and others. It’s not a building. It’s the bride of Christ, put here on earth to reflect his glory.

The Gospel’s Transforming Power

Well my husband wrapped up what he was saying to our waiter and then invited him to our church, handing him a card with info on it. I sensed that he thought we were a little weird (Okay, maybe foreign), but that somehow he appreciated us chatting with him.

It’s my prayer that one day he can step foot in the church again and see how the church was really meant to be. That he would see the power of the gospel transform all forms of hypocrisy.

Why in the world did Jesus come for me?

Do you find it crazy how in the middle of such a joyous season of celebrating the birth of our Savior, so much pain and brokenness still exists all around us? I mean why can’t Christmas just make it all better?

A friend I grew up with just lost his mom, one of our ministry partner’s at work is in the hospital waiting on results from a brain tumor and is currently in rehab, people all over the nation have lost jobs, and a lot of families this Christmas won’t have any presents under their tree. Many people are wondering if all hope has been lost.

Can light even exist in such a dark, evil, messed up world?

Yes.

But only because God intervened for us. In his great love and mercy, He sent his son into the world as The light. He came as a baby in the most humble means to save us because we’re a desperate people.

People in need of a divine Rescuer.

A Redeemer.

A Restorer.

He knew how evil our hearts would be towards him, yet he still came to save us from that sin so that we would be in relationship with Him- back to the way we were created to be.

This is the real story of Christmas…

Even when it seems so hazy and is difficult to accept at times, it’s still the truth.

This truth means that whatever insurmountable thing I’m facing, I can trust in God. I can trust that even though this world is not as it should be, he’s in the process of redeeming it and making it new and right. He’s in the process of making me new so that I can be a minister of  reconciliation to a world who so desperately needs Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them….We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Cor. 5:17-20

One day, Jesus is coming back and all our tears, pain, and sorrow will be wiped away.

And that is our great hope this Christmas that we can share with others.

5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

Being on Mission in Holiday Madness

While at Whole Foods the other day, I had to overcome some fears and I had to do it quickly.

As my cashier Jaime was loading my groceries into the bag, I asked him how the crowds had been with the Thanksgiving rush… He said they weren’t too bad.

I told him I shop at Whole Foods on special occasions. My husband was in seminary and our budget was tight.

“What’s seminary?” he asked.

Trying to think of a simple answer to what seemed like a complicated question, I said:

“Well, it’s a school where you learn more about the Bible and eventually become a pastor or something like that. My husband wants to help teach others the Bible… It’s a non-denominational, Christian, evangelical school.”

“Oh okay,” he replied.

I could tell the people behind me were anxious to get their groceries on the belt, but I had another question for him and those people were annoying me so I just blurted out:

“Do you have a church background at all?” I said extremely fast.

“What was that?” he asked.

“Did you grow up in the church at all?”

“Well, my family is Roman Catholic and I grew up in that but I’m not into the whole ceremonial stuff. You know…”

“Yeah I understand… Well, the church my husband and I go to is more about a relationship with God than it is about religion. It’s laid back and it really doesn’t look like a church at all. You wouldn’t think it was one.”

“Where’s it located?”

“It’s a big building off 635 and 75. We’re still in the building phase actually.”

He said he thought he’d seen it before from the interstate.

“I think you’d really like it!” I added.

He stopped and looked at me.

“Well I’ll promise you this- I’ll go and check it out sometime.”

I was shocked. Really? You would? I thought.

I smiled, said that would be awesome, and wished him a great Thanksgiving.

As I left that day, I was ecstatic that God used that 2 minute window for me to talk to Jaime. I often get this knot in my stomach before starting up a spiritual conversation. Even though Jesus is the most important person in my life who I want to proclaim to the world every day that I live, I still have fears. I still struggle with getting past “me” and other insecurities.

But I’m learning that the greatest way to overcome that fear is to dive in wholeheartedly, no matter the risk.

To lovingly engage people in conversation.

To live on mission.

To get past the distractions so that God can receive glory, even during the holiday madness.

I pray that Jaime will remember our talk and check out Watermark so he can learn what it means to have a relationship with God.

I hope you’ll pray with me too. In the mean time, I’ll be checking up on him the next time I need a treat!

Not by coincidence

Every day, we’re given a blank page to write- another page in God’s story.

Today is a day that He’s given you and I to live for his glory and his kingdom. Yet how often do we forget that the circle’s he’s put us in are exactly where we’re supposed to be to shine his light?

I was just thinking the other day how the nursery care worker at my gym that we see regularly is not by accident. The grocery baggers at Kroger that we see every week isn’t by chance. The people I live near and the certain friendships I have are a part of God’s plan. And it doesn’t just happen to be that it’s the year 2009 and my family and I live in the city of Dallas, Texas.

Many times, I ask God to bring the people he wants into my life so I can share his love and grace. But I forget that often, they’ve been planted right in my midst- in the every day places.

Even in the tiniest details of life, nothing is an accident.

It takes hard work to be aware of this every day and it’s amazing that God chooses us to be the vessel to help grow God’s kingdom here on earth.

Was there a time when you knew that something was not “by accident” but was a part of the story God is writing?


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