Saturday, November 19, 2016

How to Tell Your Faith is Alive? Take a Look at Your Works

Ryan was home and wanted to check out the Tanglefoot Trail. We wanted Sam to go with us. The only way to make that happen was to take him in a wheelchair, so that's what we did. Ryan happily pushed Sam along, and had a grand time doing it. Our faith influenced our actions.

I thought about that day when I read James 2:17 this morning. 

"Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself." James 2:17 nasb

It's probably the key verse in the book of James. 

Faith, without works, is dead. Ponder that for a moment.

Social media is full of declarations of faith and Scripture memes. Our churches are full of people who, by their presence, proclaim their faith. What's not always so apparent are the works that demonstrate and accompany that faith.

Today, I'm writing to us, the body of Christ. 

How can the world recognize the faith we say we have if they can't see any works? How can they see that Christ has made a difference in our lives if we do the same things the world does?

When there are elderly believers who are lonely or in need, and we never visit or help, how does the world tell we honor our senior adults? 

When there are children in foster care, praying for a "forever" home, and we leave them there, how does the world tell we care about orphans? 

When the divorce rate among Christians is equal to the divorce rate outside the church and we choose not to go the distance, how does the world tell that Christ heals relationships?

When immigrants find themselves adrift in a new and strange culture and we do nothing to help, how does the world tell that we welcome strangers?

I'm not perfect at demonstrating my faith by my works, and I don't pretend to be, but I understand the concept. 

We demonstrate our faith by our works.

In a very real way, we reveal the power of Christ in our lives by how He changes us and causes us to look outside ourselves to the needs of others. 

It's easy to fill a shoebox with toys and send it to a child on the other side of the world. It's not quite as easy to spend our valuable time visiting with the lonely person down the street. It's not as easy to invite strangers into our homes for a meal. It's not as easy to stop by a nursing home to spend time with senior adults who can no longer live alone.

Before we race into the madness of the holidays, let's stop and reconsider our testimony. Our "works" reveal the truth of our faith. What do they say about Christ to a world that is lost in sin and darkness?

Today, let's take a close look at our lives, our faith, our works. What changes do we need to make? Works won't save us, but faith, without works, is not much of a faith at all.

We live in a world in desperate need of a Savior. Let's not just tell them about Christ, let's show them by the things we do.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Working Together To Get The Job Done
If God leads you to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 

#works #faith

Friday, November 18, 2016

Working Together To Get the Job Done

Last week, I spoke at a nearby nursing home and invited the residents to participate in praying for missionaries.

Most of the people accepted a missionary card, but one elderly lady was hesitant. "I don't know," she told me.

"What's your hesitation?"

"It's a big job. I can't remember much of anything. I can hardly remember to come to breakfast. What if I forget to pray?"

"You'll have your card, and you won't be the only one praying. I'll be praying, too. I have lots of people who will pray."

"Okay, then. As long as I'm not the only one. That's too big a responsibility for me." 

The lady's words have come back to me over and over again. "It's too big a responsibility for me." She's right. Praying for the work of God through our missionaries is a huge task, but we can work together to get the job done.

An easy way to join in is to take one continent at a time. Go to the Global Outreach website and hover your cursor over "our missionaries", then click on the continent of choice in the drop-down section. Pick an area of the world and pray for those missionaries listed on the web page.

Today's my African day. I'll pull the prayer cards for missionaries in Africa and pray for them by name. Tonight, my supper club will have ground nut stew, a recipe a former missionary to Nigeria gave me. We'll go through my cards and pray for them by name again. 

It's the way I taught my son about missions when he was small. We cooked and ate our way around the world, praying for missionaries as we went. 

You can do it, too. It's a fun way to join in the effort by praying for missionaries and learning a little about their country at the same time.

Intercessory prayer IS a big responsibility, but it's not too big if we work together. How about you? Today, look for an innovative way to join in. We can make a difference, if we will. 

"And He said to them, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'" Luke 10:2 esv
(Missionaries, feel free to share a recipe for your continent's turn.)
If God leads you to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Choosing a Grateful Heart in the Midst of a Grumbling Culture
#missions #prayer #globaloutreach

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Choosing a Grateful Heart in the Midst of a Grumbling Culture

Years ago, I was at a women's retreat, and something happened that was funny. I don't even remember what it was, but I laughed until I cried. 

The next day, one of my friends said, "I watched you last night and realized I'd never seen you laugh before."

I was taken aback at first, but she was right. I didn't laugh much back then. 

Not long ago, I saw an article about the health benefits of laughter.  (WebMDMayo Clinic). I have some questions about the science behind the "studies" that support the article, but the premise is right. Even Scripture tells us a happy heart is good for us. 

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, 
but a broken spirit saps a person's strength." 
Proverbs 17:22 NLT

The lack of laughter has been on my mind a lot lately. For obvious reasons. There's not much to laugh about. 

Terrorists hack people to death and dream up new ways to torture and maim every day. India and Ethiopia have been in economic and civil turmoil. My friend has a voodoo church behind her house. I'm deeply concerned for people I love who are in danger. 

Evil abounds, and I've spent hours every day praying about the world's woes. There's nothing funny in any of it.

Even so, there's no getting past the need for a cheerful heart. There's no denying that our Lord Jesus was a party-going of man. 

I've worked long hours at very intense work for months. Short sleep. Too many skipped meals. Not even a chuckle, much less a laugh. 

In the midst of praying about terrorists and evil, I began to pray about laughing. 

I know. That sounds crazy, but Scripture says to pray about everything.

A few nights ago, a man in my Sunday School class posted about my casual health advice. He allowed me to see myself from his eyes, and it was the funniest thing I've read in ages. I laughed until I cried, and felt tremendously better afterward. (You can go to my Facebook page and read it.)

I felt so much better that I've decided to step aside from all the anger, turmoil, and evil for a long weekend, clean my house, and look for fun. 

Maybe you should do the same. No matter what provocation comes your way, a soft answer turns away wrath. A cheerful heart is good medicine. The world is a tough, dark place, 

Stop engaging and start laughing. You'll feel better. 
ps - the flower in the photo always makes me smile.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Battle Plan of Jesus: Fighting With Love
If you'd like to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841

#laughteristhebestmedicine #laugh

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Battle Plan of Jesus: Fighting with Love

I started November with a plan to write about something for which I was thankful every day. The turmoil of the election derailed that plan. It has felt as if  we are in a battle of anger and words. 

Today, I'm turning my attention away from the Great Divide and toward the battle plan of God. Admittedly, it's not a typical battle plan, but it's no less effective for it's unusual nature. We'd do well to adopt the strategy for our own.

Jesus was in Capernaum, just starting out his public ministry. He had been invited to read from the Scriptures. The book of Isaiah was handed to Him, and He chose to read from Isaiah 61. The passage was His mission statement, He told the listeners. It was the reason He came.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor... " (Luke 4:18 NASB)

Matthew Henry, a late 1600's theologian, wrote: "having defended himself against the devil’s assaults, he now begins to act offensively, and to make those attacks upon him, by his preaching and miracles, which he could not resist or repel." 

Jesus defended himself successfully against the devil's temptations, but a battle is not won with defense alone. Defeating an enemy requires a strong and effective offense as well. 

In this passage, we see Jesus' offensive plan against the kingdom of darkness begin to unfold. His five-pronged approach was one of the most unlikely offenses imaginable.

The first prong was to preach the gospel to the poor.  It's not likely Jesus meant only the poor in money. He is also poor who has mountains of money but is estranged from our Lord. Jesus came for those who are poor spiritually, as well as those who are financially poor.

Jesus came to release those held captive to sin, held in bondage from poor choices and the power of evil. He offered freedom for all those who would accept Him as Savior. 

In order to accept that freedom, a recognition of the need for a Savior must come first, so Jesus included an attack against spiritual blindness in His battle plan. 

Jesus came for sinners, of which I am chief. It's what the apostle Paul said, and it's true of me. If we're honest, it's true of all of us. 

Today, let's turn our eyes away from the turmoil, away from the Great Divide, and toward our Savior. Ask Him for the sight to see our own hearts as He sees them, then allow Him to make whatever changes are necessary. 

If we're going to fight, let fight as Jesus did, who chose love as His weapon and freedom from sin as His objective. He out-loved His enemy, and we should, too.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: If We Know Better, We Should Do Better
If you'd like to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841
photo above is sunrise over the Sea of Galilee
#Jesus #loveothers

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If We Know Better, We Should Do Better

One of the details to which authors have to attend is their brand. If you've read many John Grisham books, you know he writes legal thrillers. Often, the underdog overcomes the "big guy" because of dogged determination. When he wrote "The Unpainted House," he went "off brand" and sales plummeted.

I have a "brand" for my novels, too. I write about ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the midst of crisis because of the power of Christ in them. Prayer plays a big part in every one of my stories. The three novels currently in edits all have that same theme. The story lines are vastly different, but the truth conveyed is the same. 

In a way, my brand is the "why" behind my writing. 

I realized this morning that John had a "why" behind his writing, too. In chapter 2 of 1 John, he uses the same phrase nine times. "I am writing to you because..." He has written to convey certain truths and spelled it out to be sure his readers didn't miss them. 

1) "I am writing... that you may not sin." (2:1)
2) "I am not writing a new commandment... but an old one..." (2:7)
3) "On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment..." (2:8)

(The old/new commandment is about loving your neighbor. If you don't love,    
you're in the dark. If you love, you're in the light.)

4) "I am writing... little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name' sake..." (2:12)
5) "I am writing... fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning... (2:13)
6) "I am writing... young men, because you have overcome the evil one." (2:14)
7) "I have written... fathers... because you know Him who has been from the beginning." (2:14)
8) "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong... the word of God abides in you... you have overcome the evil one." (2:14)
9) "I have not written... because you don't know the truth, but because you do know it..." (2:21)

It may seem like too much sugar for a nickel, but looking at all nine "I have written's" helps us see the point of John's writing. 

He goes on to say, "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us..." (3:1) and "when He appears, we shall be like Him." (3:2)

John was writing to believers who were dispersed abroad. They understood that Jesus had given them forgiveness for their sins and power over the evil one so that they could resist temptation. The problem wasn't so much what they were doing, but what they weren't doing.

The problem was love. It was in short supply.

One day, John told them, we'll see God face-to-face and we'll understand about His great love for us. We'll become just like Him, and we will have a great love, too. In the meantime, we should cultivate love. We should actively work at loving others. In fact, if you don't love the brethren, John said, you need to reevaluate whether or not you belong to Christ.

Those are hard words to hear in these difficult times, but they are no less true. We are to love our neighbor as our self, and particularly to love our fellow believers, but we don't. Instead, we have a tendency to act just like the world... backbiting, gossiping, speaking ill of others, arguing. Where's the love of Christ in all that? No where.

Today, let's take a close look at our own lives. Are we loving as Jesus loved? We know better, but are we doing better? 

If we're honest, we all have room for improvement. For once, let's take a deep breath and make a fresh choice. Let's choose love. Hold our tongue, stifle our comments, and choose love.

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God; and such we are..." 1 John 3:1 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Living Like We Were Worth It
If you'd like to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841
#love #Jesus

Monday, November 14, 2016

Living Like We Were Worth It

My son, Ryan, is the most precious human in my life. Every drop of blood, every millimeter of sinew in his body is precious to me. If there were something I could do to keep him safe, I'd do it. I'd lay down my life for him. 

There's no one on earth for whom I'd lay HIS life down, however. 

What I can't comprehend is that God loved us enough to allow His Son to die for us. I don't think we're worth it, but God did.

Ponder that truth for a moment. 

God thought we, a band of sinners, were worth saving, worth the blood and suffering of His Son.

If that doesn't fill you with wonder, read it again.

Peter, writing to the church dispersed abroad, said wise words about this very topic:

"And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourself in fear during the time of your stay upon earth knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." 1 Peter 1:17-19 nasb

It cost God more than any of us would be willing to pay to purchase us out of our sin-slavery. We should remember that as we go about our lives, and live accordingly. 

God bought us with the blood of His Son. 

This truth should be burned into our souls so that it's never far from our consciousness. It should inform both our words and actions. Before we speak (or write), we need to consider, "Did Christ die so that I can communicate in this way? Did God give His Son for me to do this? Does it honor Him?" 

If not, then don't do it.

It's that simple.

We were bought with a price. We are to glorify God in all that we do. All that we say. All that we think. 

Christ didn't die for us to live like the world. He died to set us free from the sin of this world. Today, let's let the truth of Christ's sacrifice set the tone for our every word and deed. Let's live as if we were worth it. 

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Simple Truth of How Healing Begins
If you'd like to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841
#truth #Jesus

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Here's the Simple Truth of How Healing Begins

When I look at the photo of me with my son on graduation weekend (above) I know that our smiles are more than a quick movement of lips and teeth. My smile reflects pride in his accomplishment and the overwhelming love in my heart for that sweet young man.

As children, we begin to understand a little of the love of a parent for a child. As parents, we gain a much deeper understanding of that parental love.

If we can understand the love of a parent for a child, we can begin to understand the love of our Heavenly Father for us, His children. I might be more accurate if I said that I can understand the love God has for me, His child. If He loves me more than I love Ryan, and He does, I am loved with an enormous love.

 To extend our understanding to God's love for His other children is a little different, isn't it? We would probably never admit this, but we don't always see His other children as being equally as worthy of love as we ourselves.

That sounds terrible when I read it back, but I know it's true. How? Because I see how we treat each other.

A young friend of mine confessed recently that she's been told she will need to find another church because of her political views. Where's the love of God in that? My brothers and sisters, how does this behavior demonstrate the love of Christ to a dark and perishing world? How does it glorify Jesus? (I invited her to my church, because we have made a conscious choice to love all who come.) 

It's easy to say we love everyone, but it's not so easy to prove it by our actions. 1 John tells us what love looks like, and it's far greater than I can begin to comprehend.

"By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious; anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother." 1 John 3:10 nasb

That verse is a shocker. Here's the Leanna Paraphrase: "Anyone can tell if you are a God-follower or a devil-follower. All they have to do is look at your life. Do you do what's right? Do you love your brother with the same love Christ loved us? If you do, you're following God. If you don't, you're following the devil."

Love is not optional. 

Love is also not intermittent.

Jesus Christ loved us all the way to the cross. He didn't stop loving us when He was being beaten. He didn't stop loving us when the nails were pounded into His hands and feet. He didn't stop loving us when He took the weight of a world-full of sin on his flesh-bound shoulders. He loved, and He never stopped. He's still loving.

In a world of "me" and a culture of entitlement, it's hard to understand this, but love looks like the cross, and it's sometimes hard. 

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." 1 John 3:16

When someone offends us, we are to love anyway. We relinquish our right to lash out and fight back, but we do more. We are proactive by praying and loving anyway. 

If we, as the outraged, (no matter what it is that has outraged us) were to begin to love back by praying for those who have offended and outraged us, something wonderful would happen. God would change us both. We would begin to see the person who's offended us differently, but we would also begin to see the sin in our own lives. We would see US differently, too.

In that beautiful way that only God can do, He would draw us both a little closer to Him, and, in so doing, draw us and the one who's upset us closer, too.

It's how unity begins.

We love God more and allow Him to help us love our neighbor more. In all that marvelous loving, unity begins.

If we mean it when we say that we want to heal our nation, we must be willing to do what it takes. Die to self. Live and love as God loves. 

This love is what will heal our churches. This love is what will heal our nation. 

It's that simple. Jesus told us this many times. Love your neighbor as (in the same way, with the same intensity, with the same consideration) you love yourself.

Dion Warwick sang a very popular song several decades ago. Those words have never been more true. "What the world needs now is love, sweet love." 

It's true. Now, more than ever, what we need is love. God's love.

Today, let's choose love. Let's live love. Let's share love, and do it with reckless abandon, for that' how Christ loved us.
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Taking a Risk and Praying For Doers
If you'd like to help support this ministry outreach, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841
#healourland #love