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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Five Ways You Can Serve God

I am so proud of the missionaries that I have known in my life. I pray for them and enjoy reading about the their hopes and dreams and the vision that God puts on their hearts. It's also inspiring to see family teams speak in one voice about the incredible work they are doing. God is always looking for obedient servants to join him in his work.

I read Luke 8 today and learned of new relationships as Jesus defines them. When we accept him as our savior, we are part of his family and on the winning team. In Luke 8 Jesus is traveling and drawing crowds. He is so popular and attracts huge crowds as he heals and encourages. At one point, the crowds tell Jesus that his mother and brothers are looking for him. Jesus responds that his brothers and mother are those who hear my word of God and do it.

Perhaps you have entered into a relationship with God at some point in your life and you want to hear God's word and do it. You are wondering what to do next? Do you follow God as a disciple? Become a full time minister or missionary? After all, what does God want you to do?

God spoke with and invited 12 strangers to be his inner circle. While others received different roles and missions. Later in Chapter 8 Jesus heals a man possessed of demons. Afterward, the man asked to follow Jesus. Jesus told him to go home and tell everyone what God has done for him. The man wanted to be on mission with Jesus. God needed him to stay home and spread the word locally.

Jesus wants us to hear Gods word and do what he asks. Here are five ways that you can do just that.

  1. Find out what your skills, talents and God given gifts are and find where you can use them to tell your story.
  2. Participate in a local body of believers. Don't just join a church, but also join the ministries. Share your experiences and enter into discussions in Bible study and Sunday school.
  3. Join a charity group and minister to the needs of hurting people. Take part in active service. For example, you can join a rescue mission and teach classes or serve food. Participate and build trust so you can be effective. 
  4. Become part of an international charity. Adopt a child, build a well, donate money or whatever you are capable of. However, be involved in the name of Christ and get educated on how the organization helps. 
  5. Look for ways of sharing your faith in normal day to day situations. You don't have to be preachy, just available when the opportunity comes to give a reason for your faith. Maybe your compelling story can help others.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Keep your promises; they are counting on you

When you make a commitment to support your local church, charity or mission, the benefactors are hopeful and expectant. Nothing is more counted on than the proclaimed financial and personal support. It takes teamwork to meet goals, just one member not doing what is hoped for can lead to an empty feeling of a failed mission.

Proverbs tells us that delayed hope causes a heart to be sick, but fulfilled desire is the tree of life.

What would happen if a loved one asked us to meet them for a picnic. "Go to the pavillion and I'll meet you there in an hour. I'll bring the food, bring some drinks."
You show up and wait for hours only to be stood up. It's an empty feeling.

That same feeling comes about when bills can't be paid by churches, volunteers don't show as expected for charity events and resources aren't provided to our missionaires. These expectations might be budgeted based on promises or pledges. When time comes to donate or serve, the pledger doesn't come through.

Consider what you pledge carefully and prayerfully. If you 've made a promised to pray, witness, love or serve do it immediately. If not, you risk delaying hope. People count on you to do well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Commitment Means

   In Commitment, Marta has lost her husband, but not her desire to serve the Lord in Indonesia. In spite of tremendous hardships, she has trusted God and relied on the love of the people she serves. Life doesn’t get easier for her because she became obedient to her calling. It becomes more rewarding as she realizes she is making a difference.
     This level of devotion reminds me of the many friends who serve the Lord in other countries. They have decided to faithfully minister full time and teach others what they themselves know about God. They are committed to living a life honoring God as they try to introduce Jesus to many who have no idea. It sounds easy, but such commitments are tough and stress a person’s dedication, focus and desire. Continuous prayer, bible study, support of friends and family and a deep faith helps them overcome the toughest of obstacles. 
     To put things in perspective, I reflect on a recent disaster that affected much of my state, Alabama. A few months ago, a tornado swept through killing many. It’s impact also destroyed homes and knocked out our community’s electricity for a week. We had no lights, hot water, air conditioning, gas, food or television. We were otherwise unscathed and therefore had many options to escape the inconveniences. One such plan included heading to stay with family in the next state. However, we made the choice to stay and join our church in helping neighbors and community recover.
     Since we had no direct impact, our days were spent volunteering with tornado recovery, trying to keep frozen food from spoiling, cooking food that we could rescue, gathering with neighbors and sharing food until it got too dark. We went to bed as shadows blanketed our homes and woke up with the sun creeping into our   windows. After a week, we were well into the rhythm of survival when the power was suddenly restored.   That week of inconvenience turned into a wonderful time to get closer to our families, friends and gather closer as a community. But this was a onetime experience, one that we quickly recovered from.
     In contrast, I'm reminded of friends in foreign places. Some locations are remote and electricity only runs for part of the day. Intermittent electricity is the norm, transportation is unreliable, language translation is fallible and customs are strange. Dinner may take several hours as meat has to be bought, water has to be sanitized, vegetables have to be cooked and ingredients have to be gathered that day. Businesses, stores, government services and doctor’s offices may not be available every day.  
     If family members get ill, there is no immediate visit to a doctor’s office. If foreign government services are needed, it may take days or weeks of waiting in a faraway city. As missionaries they have choices. They can return to the comfort of living in the US or they can remain where they are. My suspicion is that they have a strong pull to serve God right where they are. This desire far outweighs the convenience that they could be experiencing. Like Marta, they are right where they should be, enjoying the impact they are making.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making it work

I've been doing a lot of newspaper reading, information gathering, volunteering with praying to better understand who my neighbor is. After reading The Hole in the Gospel by Richard Sterns and Radical by David Platt, I realize that my "neighbor" isn't just around the corner or the next house over. These two books helped explain that our world's population is our neighbor.

Christ's message is to love our neighbors. That sounds easy until we learn that love is more than simply an emotion of our hearts, but a call to action. You're probably familiar with the term "make the punishment fit the crime." If you are, then allow me this analogy, "make your reward fit your heart". It's not enough to say, "My heart goes out to these people". Even their enemies feel compassion. But neighbors rise to the occasion to help. In my case, I've often felt distant and unaffected, blaming it on poor governments and people needing to "take care of their own problems".

Last week my neighbor's trees blew over into my yard. It was a huge mess and I fretted over how to clean it up without a chain saw.
Will I buy a chainsaw and take care of it myself?
Should I bother my neighbor and ask him what he plans to do about the trees?
Alas, I didn't have to do anything. Saturday morning I was overjoyed to hear the guttural and powerful growling of a chainsaw. Like a claxon, it called me and the surrounding neighbors to pitch in. Within hours we had both yards cleaned up.

Our neighbors near and far need our help. I received the message loud and clear and gladly spring into action. For me, it meant finding a local charity and supporting it in service and finances. It also meant joining Mr. Stearns in adopting a child, providing clean water, and donating to abused children through World Vision.

This week my heart breaks over the refugees from Somalia. Our neighbor's children are starving. Their mothers walk miles to feed them only to be abused. This is not their fault as they are born into their misery. What can we do? Are we powerless to help?

Let's start by praying for them, writing our leaders, donating money and using our talents to let our neighbors know we are doing our best for them.

If you are looking for ways to join in loving your neighbor, consider these points as addressed in Radical.
  • Become active in your church through service and tithing
  • Join a local charity organization and give of your time and money
  • Find an international charity and do the same
  • Plan to visit a foreign country to help where needed
If you are looking for a place to start, why not help me raise funds for abused children. I am partnering with World Vision.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Where's my Bible?

I travel frequently and usually depend on the Gideon International to provide Bibles for my room. I've been fortunate to open my bedside table drawer and find a copy there ready to be read. Nothing gives me more comfort than to see the red or blue bible bible waiting to be read.

This latest trip was different. My hotel didn't have a Bible available. I started to fret because I was really looking forward to it. Now I was wondering if I would have to go without reading it and hi-tail it to Books a Million, WalMart, Lifeway or some other bookstore in the morning.

Great news though, my Verizon Droid2 has an Application for that. As much as I dislike reading from a small screen, I was ready to do what was necessary. Just for kicks I decided to go to my phone's ap marketplace and look up free Bible Aps.

I ended up downloading Bible.IS. This was an incredible find. The ap allows me to easily and quickly select chapters and verses (1 Samuel 9-12 if you are curious). The background and text color scheme is real easy on the eyes.

The best feature by far is that it has an audio track. The quality is great and the dramatic reading includes background music, different actors for voices, and a very professional sound.

I am glad I found the ap. I hope you will consider using it as well.