Saturday, April 8, 2017

When the Devil Knows More About Jesus Than We Do

Jesus was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum when something odd happened. A demon-possessed man was there. His demons were so stirred up about Jesus that the man started shouting.

"Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth! Have you come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God!" (Luke 4:34 nasb)

The word translated as "know" means a "knowing with certainty." It's a word that indicates there's no doubt at all about the truth being spoken. 

The demons possessing the man knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Holy One of God, the Messiah and, at the moment, they were the only ones who did. 

The question for the demon-possessed man wasn't whether Jesus was the Messiah. The question was what he would allow Jesus to do in him.

Those demons knew that the Holy One could change the man's life forever. They wanted no part of Jesus, and they didn't want the man to have any part with Jesus, either.


They'd faced the same question we all face. What will we do about Jesus? 
The demons had made their decision long before. They refused to submit to His authority and bow down to Him. They didn't want anyone else to submit, either.

They still don't.

At some point in our lives, we'll all face the same decision. Our searching and questioning will come to an end and we will answer one pivotal question. 

What will we do with Jesus? 

It's a question with eternal consequences, but also one we must answer anew every day. 

What will we do with Jesus today?

Let's ignore the distractions of the evil one designed to keep us from Jesus and make this the day that we set aside our questions, our own priorities, our own love of the world. 

Let's make this the day that we embrace Jesus fully. 

Surrender completely. 

Follow closely.

Love and serve Him alone.
Please like and share to help extend our digital reach.

If you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Looking for the Evidence that Proves Our Faith to the World

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 
Our you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Looking for the Evidence that Proves Our Faith to the World

The issue I've been pondering lately is how to tell someone is a believer if they don't do anything for Christ. The answer I've finally come to is pretty simple. I can't, and neither can the world.

Of course we can argue that we see the outside but God sees the heart, and that would be true. We can't, however, disregard the words of Jesus' half-brother, James.

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

The word translated as "dead" is nekros, and in this instance indicates that it's "powerless, destitute, without force." (BLB/Thayers) Nekros here does not mean non-existent or lifeless, but that it has no power. 

This is how the Christian life looks: faith results in works. Period.

If we don't have works, how can we "prove" our faith? We can't. It's that simple. It's that hard.

Believing that God exists is not enough. Satan believes God exists, and so do his demons. Salvation does not depend upon the belief that God exists. 

Belief is a good starting point, but salvation requires that we surrender to the Son of God as our Lord. 

We must take up our cross and follow Jesus. 

To be perfectly clear, it doesn't matter if I can tell that someone is a believer, or not. What matters is that a lost and dying world can tell. 

In the first century, the change in a person who accepted Christ was so remarkable that it was recognizable. Believers were first called Christian, or "little Christ," because His love, His heart of service were evident in them. 

Lost people see our love for Jesus by our works.

People without Jesus are drawn to the evidence of Christ in our lives because the love of God is the strongest power on earth. For people to be drawn to our Jesus by our lives, He must be evident in us by our works. 

If all we have is pew-sitting faith, we don't have enough Jesus. 

The Lordship of Christ will not leave us unchanged.

It will not leave us sitting on the sidelines.

It will not leave us comfortable and untouched by the need of the world.

The model Jesus set, and that was evident in the first century, is for us to go outside the walls of our church to serve, into the world. We aren't called to merely love each other. We're supposed to be loving and serving in the world, as well. 

I've struggled with this concept for weeks. I have faith, so what are my works? 

I understand that my "job" as a missionary pretty much guarantees that I'm busy for the kingdom. The concern, for me at least, is that it's entirely too easy to do all my works with and for believers, and leave the lost of our world untouched.

Please don't misunderstand me. I love building up the body of Christ. I love serving the body of Christ. Jesus, in His last hours on earth, prayed that we would have perfect unity. When I serve His people, I'm doing exactly what He prayed we would do.

The unity for which Jesus prayed wasn't an end in itself, however. The goal of our unity was so that the world would know the great love of God exhibited through Christ for them.

Unity in the body of Christ is important work, but it's directional goal must be toward the world. We must work together to demonstrate God's love to all those who walk in darkness. Including the people most like us and the people least like us.

Today is the day to look at our faith and ask ourselves how much power and force are evident. 

Does our faith result in works or not? 

If so, what works? If not, why not?

Are all our works directed inward, toward the Church, or do we also serve outward, in the world? If not, what needs to change? 

Let's be the force of love Christ intended us to be, and show our love by our service.

"I am praying not only for those disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one... And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent Me." John 17:20,21 nlt
Please like and share to help extend our digital reach.

If you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When Our Clothes Reveal Our True Religion and It's Not What We Thought.

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 
Our you can mail your check or money order to: Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

When Our Clothes Reveal Our True Religion and It's Not What We Thought

I had an interesting conversation at the office yesterday, and the words are still haunting me today.

Someone who'd been on the recent Jordan/Israel trip stopped by with a friend. She mentioned that, in the Middle East, you can usually tell a person's religion by the way they're dressed, unlike here in the US.

The photo above is one example. Based on his clothing, the elderly man is clearly an orthodox Jew. Many Muslim women wear hajibs or burqas. Some Muslim men wear a head covering, as well. Christians tend toward Western attire.

Our Mission Director, Steadman Harrison, shared an experience about the clothing /religion issue that cut us to the core. It went something like this...

An African man had recently arrived in the United States. "You can't tell our religion by how we dress," Steadman told him.

The man paused and looked around. "Oh, no. You dress like your religion, as well. You're just all materialists."

This morning, I looked in my closet and wondered what my clothing said about me. There was a time when I had a large income. Those days are long gone, of course, but, when I had a good bit of expendable money, I spent more than I should've on clothing. Name brand clothing. Latest styles. 

Those clothes have lasted for years and I'm grateful for them, but I have to admit that my clothing choices did reflect my leaning toward materialism. 

I grew up in a time when we wore our best clothes to go to church, our "dress-up" clothing. Those with less comfortable economic situations weren't always at ease coming in their "every day"clothes. 

I remember, as a young girl, seeing a family in worn jeans and faded shirts visit our church. They looked odd on the row with women in dresses and hats and, as bad as it seems, I wondered why they hadn't dressed "right."

The truth is that playing dress up sometimes kept people away from our congregation. 

Early this week, the topic of church clothes came up when a group of us were discussing helping some underprivileged youths go to church. 

"They might not be comfortable at our church," a woman said. "We sure like to dress up." 

Her pastor agreed. "They'd be welcome with us, but you're right about the clothing." 

"They can come to my church," I told the group. "Most people wear blue jeans, even on Sunday morning." 

As I said those words, I thought to myself that "most people" didn't include me. 

Old habits die hard, and I rarely wear jeans on Sunday morning. I thought about those boys who'd expressed a desire to know Jesus better and saw those Sunday-jeans in a new way. 

If dress-up clothes keep people from Jesus, I'm happy to wear jeans.

Please don't misunderstand me. We should always give God our best, but what He wants most is not what we put on the outside of our bodies. What God desires is an humble, contrite heart. 

Today, I'll choose my clothing based on comfort rather than the impression it will make. Sunday, I hope I do the same. 

As we look at our wardrobes, let's ask ourselves a hard question. "What do my clothing choices say about me? About what matters most to me?" 

If we're going to "dress up" for church, let's start in our prayer closet, not our clothes closet. When we do, our "true religion" will be evident, no matter what we wear.

"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7 nasb
Please like and share to help extend our digital reach.

If you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: When You Have to Let Go of What You Love to Do What's Next

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link   to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

When You Have to Let Go of What You Love to Do What's Next

The team from Global Outreach arrived in Jordan more than a week after my own arrival. Someone who had read my daily emails made a surprising statement. "The girls in my Sunday School class say you aren't coming home."

I laughed, but there was a little truth in their words. A piece of my heart remained in Ajloun.

I loved Jordan. I loved the people I met. 

I want to go back, and, if God provides, I am. If I do, however, even for a few weeks twice a year, some things will have to change. 

In absolute honesty, some things need to change anyway.

Working as many hours as I've worked these last six months isn't sustainable for the long haul. It's taking a toll. 

Some life-changing decisions are overdue.

If you've known me for long, you know that I've had to clear my overloaded "plate" before. I'm doing that again, looking at every activity to decide which God wants me to keep and which I can let go or modify to make it easier.

I've had to let go of some things I love doing in order to do what God has next for me. It's a process, and it's hard. 

The small group that's met at my house for years has outgrown me now, and we'll be moving to a larger venue.

Being an alderwoman has taken considerable time these past twelve years. Last night, I withdrew from the race for a fourth term. There were a lot of tears. 

The mayor and board and I have been through quite a bit together. It's hard to step away, but I'm praying that the ones who come behind me will have as much love and respect for the process as I have had... 

That they'll invest as much of themselves and their own resources as I have... 

That they'll study to know the law and the opportunities for tiny towns like ours...

I'm including the text of the letter I wrote to the election commissioners. I'd rather you read it from me than to hear it from someone who doesn't know what I said. 

Dear Joyce, Jerry, and Mike,

My twelve years as an Alderman for Blue Springs have been marked by steady and progressive change. Our population has nearly tripled in size and we have changed in status from a village to a township. 

We now have a 25- year comprehensive plan, zoning, building codes and a building inspector, a police department, and a lovely park. We were the first in the area to celebrate Pi Day and to offer Friday Night Jam, a “jam session” with area musicians in the park.

I love Blue Springs and have enjoyed serving our citizens. It is with mixed emotions, therefore, that I write to inform you of a change in my status as a candidate for the position of Alderman. 

Because of recent changes in my ministry that have resulted in the need for an increase in international travel, as well as ever-lengthening work days, I have decided to withdraw from the race. I am writing to request that my name be removed from the ballot. Thank you in advance for your assistance.


Leanna Hollis

With all that said, I guess you're wondering what my future looks like. I am, too. I'll still live in Blue Springs and I'll still love my little town. I'll still do volunteer work in my town, just like always. 

I'll still look after Sam, my neighbor.

I'll still do the work of intercession and outreach at Global Outreach, but I'll need more volunteer coordinators to help me.

I hope I get to help make plans for a project in Jordan that we turn over to someone who can take it for the long haul. I anticipate finding lots of prayer partners to pray for people of influence in Jordan.

But... I realize that I love Jordan, in part, because I love almost everywhere in this big world. If I'd been in Uganda, I'd have loved Uganda and her people in this same way.

What I hope to do, down the road, is fall in love with many countries in the same way I've fallen in love with Jordan. 

I hope to identify one project I can do to make a difference in those countries, understanding that sometimes that "project" will be to pray in new ways and find more prayer partners.

I hope to capture the stories and tell them in a way that draws visitors to those countries to help the missionaries and to love the people.

Time will tell, but, for now, I'm letting go of some things I love to prepare for what's next. It may be hard, but it's a small sacrifice to make for the One who gave up heaven in preparation to suffer and die and rise again for us. 

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Matthew 28:19-20 nlt
Please like and share to help extend our digital reach.

If you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The Greater Work that Looks Like Less

If you feel led to partner with this ministry (US, Jordan, the digital world), here's the link   to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Greater Work That Looks Like Less

The passages in James have been difficult for me. I'm a doer, but, as I've studied James, I've been deeply concerned that I don't "do" enough. 

What hungry person have I helped lately? What orphan? What widow? 

I've spent days feeling as if I'm at the bottom of a huge staircase of good works I'll never surmount. I've looked at people who are intentional about feeding programs and helping others, and I've wondered what else I should do to be more like them.

Of course, my comparison is not supposed to be with others. It's with Jesus. When I start comparing myself to other believers, it should raise a warning flag, but, this time, it didn't.

Yesterday, our staff devotion was from John 14, the "I am the way, the truth, and the life" passage. 

It also contains one of my favorite verses. "He who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father." John 14:12 nasb

What works did Jesus do? Preached the gospel. Healed the sick. Raised the dead. Made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. 

He did exciting, flashy miracles. I'd love to do those flashy miracles, too.

Yesterday, though, I saw this passage in a new way. A more Christ-like way.

This chapter didn't happen separate from the previous one. It happened during the Last Supper. At the beginning of the evening, Jesus had taken off his outer clothes, wrapped a cloth around his waist, found a basin and water, and washed the feet of the disciples. 

The King of Kings knelt by each man's dirty feet, lifted them into His soon-to-be-nail-scarred hands, and washed them.

If I do the works that Christ did, I need to start with the one most closely associated with His words. I need to humble myself and do the dirty, stinky, least attractive job that no one wants. I need to do it because of love. 

The "greater work" that Jesus did followed closely on the heels of the foot washing. He laid down His life and died for sinners like me. 

That was His greatest work. 

When I look at potential "good works," I prefer the flashy stuff. That's not the most important work, though. The greatest work Christ did was the most humiliating, self-sacrificing, agonizing work of all. 

The greater work of Jesus was the cross.

It makes John 14:12 look different, doesn't it?

Here's the Leanna paraphrase: "He who believes in Me will do the same kind of sacrificial, dying-to-self works that I did.  He'll humble himself and lay down his life for those he loves."

If I get that part right, I won't have to worry about doing more "good deeds." 

Today, let's do whatever God puts in our path to do, and do it with all our might, but let's also do the work of humbling ourselves and serving the way Christ did.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 esv
In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: How to Have a Long and Satisfying Life

Monday, April 3, 2017

How to Have a Long and Satisfying Life

As a physician, I've spent countless hours explaining the importance of controlling blood pressure, reducing cholesterol levels, decreasing the Hgb A1c, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise. All those actions result in better health. They're also believed to result in longer life.

There's an another, and often overlooked, action that can result in longer life, and we'd do well to incorporate it into our health strategy.

Obedience to God.

Scripture repeatedly tells us that obedience is related to both the length and quality of life.

The fifth commandment, honor your parents, comes with a promise. 

"Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord is giving you." Exodus 20:12 nlt

The promise is not that we'll live until we are old, frail, and unable to get about. The promise is for a "long, full life" in the place God has given us. 

Deuteronomy 6:2 tells us that, when we are careful to obey God's commands, our lives will be "prolonged." 

Proverbs 3 suggests that obedience can bring peace as well as length of days: 
"My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life,
And peace they will add to you." Proverbs 3:1-2 nasb

My favorite "long life" verses are found in Psalm 91.

"Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue and honor him.
With a long life I will satisfy him,
And let him behold My salvation."
Psalm 81:14-16 nasb

The psalmist makes it clear. Obedience to a set of rules is not the secret to long life. A love relationship with our God is the key.

If we want a long and satisfying life, we must start by getting to know our Lord in a deep and intimate way. Call on Him when we're in need. Obey Him. Love Him. 

When we do, He'll deliver us, answer us, rescue and honor us, and give a life that satisfies. 

With that said, we have to recognize that we live in a broken, fallen world and, as a result, our bodies are not the perfect creations God intended. There is sickness. Premature death. Chronic disability. 

Relationship with and obedience to God don't negate the results of the fall. They do, however, put us in a position of blessing. One of those blessings is a life that brings contentment and peace. It can also bring prolongation of days.

Do you want a long, healthy, and satisfying life?

Follow your doctor's advice, but don't overlook the importance of the Great Physician's advice. Love. Trust. Obey. 
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Will We Answer the Call to a Deeper, More Lavish Love?

Your help (through prayers, hands-on volunteering, and financial partnership) with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the world), is vital to continuing these efforts. If God has called you to partner with us, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Will We Answer the Call to a Deeper, More Lavish Love?

I'm going through the James study at a very slow pace because it's shining a bright light on my heart that's more painful than I expected.

I read these words this morning: 

"How readily do I recognize those in need? 
How thoroughly do I see their need? 
How am I serving those in need?" 

I didn't want to answer such pointed questions. 

The problem is not that I don't care about the needs around me. My problem is that I'm overwhelmed with my own life, my own ministry, my own busyness, my own neighbor. Wading into one more life, one more set of needs, seems more than I can do.

I sat, pen poised over the journal page, pondering. "In what ways do I serve the fatherless?" No words would come. 

"In what ways do I serve the widow?" I don't know.

I've walked in the shadow of men and women completely sold-out to Jesus over the last month. I thought I was an all-in disciple, until I saw the impact that remains nearly a century after true Christ-followers poured themselves out for a people not their own. 

The love they lavished on the rich and poor alike, on the Christian and the Muslim and the atheist alike, was so complete that people in Jordan still talk about it. 

I don't love that way. Not really. I don't know many people who do.

The problem, however, is that, as disciples of Christ, we're supposed to lavish love on all we see. Love God above all else. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Those are the two big commandments that summarize all the rest of the law.

I'm not sure I love in that measure. But I want to... Don't you?

James gives us a mandate, a call to a deeper love. A more lavish love. He gives us a choice. 

Will we abandon our busy agendas to the call of Christ or not? To the work of love or not?

We have a choice to make, one with eternal consequences. 

Will we love big like Jesus, or not?

If we are the followers we claim to be, we'll do what must be done. Adapt schedules. Get rid of busyness. Open our hearts. Reach out our hands. Move outside our comfort zones.

"This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27 nasb
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: When a Little Child Leads the Way

Thanks to all those who attended the Jordan Brunch yesterday, who bought pottery and books, and who partnered financially with this ministry. You help make this work of worldwide prayer and outreach possible. Thank you!