Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Reviews

The verses I read today made me think of the saying, "Live your life in such a way that if anyone were to say something bad about you no one would believe it."

I love this and I want it to be true of me.  Now, it isn't to say that you have to live perfectly.  We all mess up, fall down and have to back up every now and then.  But it is how we deal with those times that shape who we really become.  If we own up to our mistakes and seek to learn from them, people respect that.  If we try to cover our tracks or claim perfection, people see that and know better.

John is talking about Demetrius and how everyone speaks highly of him and how it is the truth in 3 John 12. 

As Christians we are not living for the approval of other men.  We should only seek to please God.  But, frankly, if we truly live our lives to fully please God, men will speak highly of us as well.  There might be a few haters out there, but just as the saying goes, no one else will believe them.

And to be frank yet again, you can't gain followers of Christ by having a bad reputation among men, either.  You must first establish a good relationship with them before you are really going to have the opportunity to share Christ with them.  One of the most frequent things I hear from non-Christians as to why they don't want to be Christians is that most Christians are hypocrites.  We say one thing but live our lives a different way.  If we lived our lives following Christs' will and owning up to our mistakes, perhaps Christianity wouldn't look so contradicted. 

The Power of a Leader

from 2/20/13

A leader can be a powerful and useful person.  But leaders have to be careful. 

Reading in 3 John 9 he talks about Diotrephes, who is a leader in the church where Gaius lives.  Diotrephes "likes to be the leader", but evidently is kind of pushy.  It seems Diotrephes has led his fellow church-goers to believe that they should not help the traveling teachers and when John tried to write the church of his issue with this, Diotrephes evidently made sure it was ignored.

Diotrephes, may be a leader in the church, but he was playing for the wrong team.  He wanted the glory for himself and was dragging a whole congregation down with him, away from God's truth.

This is the power of a leader.  You can drag the followers down or help lift them up.  You can be good at leading and still be a bad leader.

I seem to be a natural leader myself.  Either that, or I am just a sucker who can't say no and gets roped into leading things.  Just the same, I enjoy the work, the friendships I make through it and bossing people around that actually listen, unlike my children.  But, I have to be careful too, or that last little remark could be true instead of just a funny (or lame attempt at funny) little joke.

You see, I tend to jump on bandwagons, get worked up pretty quickly, offended quickly and like to have things done the way I like them done.  God has shown me this over time and botched leadership positions from time to time.  I can get bossy, but people don't necessarily like to be bossed around.  I can get over excited about a little mishap and let my mouth get ahead of my thoughts, which I usually have to back track to try and fix.  But, thankfully, God uses these little blunders to help me do better next time.

Leaders have to be careful.  Leaders have to remember that while we may be leading a small flock here on earth we are only but followers of the Shepherd over all of us.  If we stray our flock from that Shepherd there are many lions and bears waiting to attack, but if we follow Him ourselves and listen to our Shepherd and flock, the flock will grow abundantly faith and productivity. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Part of the Field

Many times I look at missionaries and wish I could be one of them.  Many times I look at them and wonder how in the world they do it.  Many times I think there is no way I could ever make it work.  Many times I hunger to go see what it is really like outside of the comfy little world where I live.  Many times it scares the socks off of me to think of when I actually might be called to go.

I have never had the pleasure of going on any type of missions trip.  Growing up my church didn't do them and once I learned about them, I had small children who would make it very hard to leave.  Now, I just wonder when it will be my turn. 

As you can see, I have very mixed feelings on missions work.  On one side I stand awe-struck wondering at the way they must see God and how God uses them in such a direct and amazing way.  I want to be a part of that.  I want God to use me in that way.  I want to be challenged.  On the other side I am fear-struck as to how it would all work and how it might rock the cozy little bubble in which I currently reside.

Today I read a little farther in 3 John and was reminded that I don't have to be out in the missions field to be a part of it.  Verse 8 tells us, "So we ourselves should support them so we can be their partners as they teach the truth."  This shows me that I can be a partner in their work by things I do here.  I can pray for them, I can offer them hospitality when they come back to my area, I can help fund their work.  This may seem menial and it still keeps me in my 'bubble' but it is a very necessary and vital part of the missions field.

I no doubt have the feeling that God is preparing my heart for direct missions work in the future, but I can also feel he is telling me to not let the fact that it is not time for me to be out there right now bother me.  Sometimes I feel like it isn't enough.  That I don't really understand it all because I am in my bubble.  That I don't really matter.  But God is showing me here, that through my prayers, hospitality and financial help I am a partner with those who are out there. 

One day it will be my turn.  I have that desire and I know that God will use me in that way, but for now I need to be satisfied in the fact that I am following God's will for what He wants me to be doing right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Lost Art

Hospitality seems to be a thing of the past.  Today it is all about entertaining.  Truthfully, I think there is a big difference between the two.

I have probably blogged on this before, but I am too lazy to go back and check, and evidently God wants me to keep working on learning this one since it keeps coming up, so you get to hear about it again.

Although their definitions are about the same when you look them up in the dictionary, the heart of the person performing each task is quite different. 

Hospitality is "being faithful to God" (vs. 5) and "pleases God" (vs 6).  It is caring for and providing for those that need it.  It is welcoming them to make them feel loved and accepted.  Hospitality is showing Christ's love to others by things you can do for them.  It includes doing these things for friends and strangers.

Entertaining, however, seems to focus more on the host or the event itself rather than the guests.  It is providing a great environment and food.  Many times it is the host trying to show their best or a gathering of friends to celebrate a certain event. 

While entertaining is not bad in any way and can easily include hospitality, you can see how it differs from pure hospitality.

I love to have people over.  I love to celebrate events, I love to cook and I love to entertain.  God has really been showing me how to do these types of things out of hospitality and wanting please Him rather than just wanting to show off my cooking abilities and the fact that I actually cleaned my house to my friends.  He wants me to invite people over that I don't know well, just so I can get to know them better and make them feel welcome, whether I know the conversations will flow smoothly or not.  He wants me to make a simple meal so that I can focus on my guests' needs rather than what I am doing in my kitchen.  He wants me to to put me last and my guest first.  He wants it to be about showing His love through welcoming others into my home.

So, you can see how hospitality has become a lost art to entertaining.  What are some ways you tell the difference between the two?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No Greater Joy

3 John 1:4 "I could have not greater joy than to hear that my children are following in the truth."

This was the verse we chose for our youngest's dedication verse.  Truly, there could be nothing greater than to know that your children love Jesus and live their lives for Him.  It is really our ultimate goal as parents and it is amazing that God would use us to further His kingdom in such a way. 

But, here, obviously, John is not talking about his literal children.  He is simply talking of people that he has helped teach or lead to Christ.  While teaching our children about Jesus is an amazing task that brings great joy, I have to say that leading others to Christ is a tiny bit more thrilling. 

Don't get me wrong, if I want anyone to join me in heaven that glorious day, I want it to be my own kids, but in the same sense, they are my kids.  I know I have to minister to them.  I love sharing Jesus with them, and frankly, they don't really have any other choice at this point.  My kiddos are still little enough that whatever mommy and daddy say is the truth.  They haven't really gotten to the point of questioning higher thinking and all that jazz.  So, now it is just fun to fill their little heads with knowledge of Him.  Fun stories, amazing promises and a love beyond measure.  They are stuck with it every single day.  And I pray, every single day, that they will love it every day of their lives no matter how old they get.  But like I said, I am their mom, it is my job to do this, and a great job to have.

So, I find it more thrilling to have God use me in an eternal way to help Him lead someone to Christ outside of the confines of my family.  It is more challenging to find them, to reach them, to teach them and to really connect with them.  It is amazing to me to think that God would use me to do such a huge thing.  And frankly, there is no greater joy to find out that you were a tool in His plan to teach someone about Jesus. 

I found out not too long ago that God's leading me to start a Bible Study for young moms using Jen Hatmaker's book "A Modern Girl's Guide to Bible Study" was a big part in the process of leading at least two women to a real, personal relationship with Christ.  It was nothing I did.  I just followed His lead to set a time and date to meet and pass out the books.  He used it and now I can be sure to have two more amazing friends by my side in heaven.  No. Greater. Joy.

He also used me and two other girls as tools to lead another mom to ask about this personal relationship with Christ.  We held a Tea and Testimony night for MOPS a few months ago where three moms, including myself, shared our testimonies.  Through our stories of how we found Christ and a personal relationship with him, a mom who attended met with one of our mentor moms to find out more about Christ.  No. Greater. Joy.

Humbling.  There is no better word.  I am not special.  I talk too much and listen to little.  I am pushy and loud.  I hardly have any scripture memorized.  I yell at my kids too much.  I fail to get my quiet times done every day.  I am selfish and lazy.  But God used me.  He used me to further His Kingdom.  It makes me tear up just to think about it.  The joy that it brings to my heart to know that His Book of Life has grown by three because He used me cannot be put into words and it makes me hunger to be available for His use even more. 

So I pray:  Use me God.  How can I help further your kingdom now?  I want more because everyone should have this joy and promise in their hearts and lives.  Use me.  Give me that joy.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thank You Notes

I did a bridal shower for a gal the other day and was appalled to hear the women chatting about a past bridal shower.  The bride never sent out the thank yous for the shower, even after the guests took the time to write their addresses on envelopes for her.  This comment started a conversation about how things are really changing in formal "Thank Yous" recently.   It is sad that something as simple and respectful as taking the time to show your gratitude to someone has really taken a backseat for many.

But, today I opened my Bible to 3rd John and quickly read over the first few verses.  The thought that hit me?  "This is a thank you note."  John is writing a thank you note to his friend for the work that he is doing and the hospitality he is showing other believers.  I just love that God would chose to include this in His Word.  It goes to prove that God finds "Thank yous" quite invaluable as well.  It shows that gratitude is at the top of priorities on His list.  And if it is on His list, it better be on mine.

"Face" Time

I finished up 2nd John the other day and I just loved how he ended it.  This book was a letter to encourage a woman and her children and warn them against false prophets, but he ends it with "I have much more to say to you, but I don't want to do it with paper and ink.  For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face.  Then our joy will be complete." vs. 12

In our day of Facebook and email and tweeting, Skype and Facetime it is easy to get away from the "face to face" relationship that John is talking about here.  But it is in these personal close relationships that we really connect.  We can get away with a whole bunch of stuff through email and Facebook.  It is simple to hide the hurt and tears or read something out of context.  It is easy to stuff feelings and just type whatever sounds the best.  Skype and Facetime also hide a lot of body language and the personal touch that John is referring to in this verse.

Real personal relationships and time together cannot be replaced.  Sure, all of the things above are great tools for staying connected, but they are only tools.  Real friendships take real face time.  The true joy of a relationship cannot be experienced without physical presence.  Sure, friendships can flourish and exist without it, heck one of my best friend's lives in Alaska and I get to see her once a year if I am lucky, but I wouldn't trade her actual presence for the world.  It is invaluable.

So don't hide behind your computer screen and think things are honky dory.  The true joy of friendship cannot be complete without a face to face connection.

Friday, February 1, 2013

False Information

"False Information" This was a random phrase that entered my head the other day as I walked from my kitchen to my living room.  Now, I have no clue what I was going to do or get or put away, but the words just hit me and it all clicked. 

You see, I had been reading 2 John 7-11 for two days trying to figure out what it all meant.  Yes, there are false prophets trying to lead you astray from the Word of God and the real life Jesus, but I feel pretty protected from that.  I know God's Word, I know Jesus.  I'm not going to fall behind some lunatic trying to tell me that Jesus was this or that when it is clearly not true.  And yes, I need to be sure to continue on the right path in staying in God's Word and knowing Jesus to guard my heart from any threats in the future, but I just couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do with all the false prophet verses I am always reading about in the Bible.  It has to apply to me somehow in a more 'right now' type of fashion.

True, not all scripture is meant for a 'right now' reading.  God might just be preparing us for something down the road.  He might just be making sure we have the information and verses we need to arm ourselves for what is coming.  This is useful.  But, I just had the feeling there was something more to what I was supposed to get from these verses to use now.

And what I got was "false information."  Now, this is far from a life-altering message from the Holy Spirit, but nonetheless it was a message direct from Him.  One of those things He just spoke right into my head because, lets face it, I didn't come up with that on my own just going about my daily tasks almost 24 hours after I had read it last.

Our world is full of false prophets in the form of false information.  They might not be leading us astray from Christ, but they sure pull us away from more important things He might have us do.  We get sucked into scams, or give-aways, or even, sadly, following stories of poor sick children that could be entirely made up.  There are false news reports of who did what and even false warnings of dangers that don't even exist.  We 'share' them on Facebook and forward them onto friends without even stopping to clarify what we just saw is true.  We are feeding into it.  We get sucked in, having no clue what we really just took part in.  All while we partake of this false information.

So, stay informed; figure it out; check your sources; stay on task.  Today, it may seem like no big deal, but if we are so quick to fall into small little schemes backed by false information today, who's to say it won't make it easier to be victims of a larger one tomorrow simply because we have become numb to it?