Sunday, February 13, 2011

I've Taken Up Wrestling

Only 4 short months ago I read a little book called Radical. This book has made those 4 short months feel like 12 long, emotional, agonizing ones. The book has changed my life. But what's a little embarrassing, is that this little book with the obnoxious orange cover pointed me back to a book I'd had all along. The one with the Red Letters.

Radical has opened my eyes to the world outside my Christian bubble. To poverty. To the orphan. To the AIDS crisis. To the people of the world that have never heard the name of Jesus. And I'm not just talking about the feeling you get after you watch a Compassion International video at church or hear a missionary speak. Not the "wow, I feel so bad for those poor people. I wish there was something I could do... oh, church is over now let's head to lunch and push it from our minds." I cannot get it out of my mind. I cannot shake the overwhelming ache in the depths of my soul for people I don't even know. I have taken a long, hard stare at the verses in Matt 25, when the sheep and the goats are separated, and I have wept because I'm afraid I would be walking with the goats.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.
All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Stop. Did you actually read it. Or did you just skim it because you've "read it a hundred times?" Go back and read it again. Nowhere are the sheep and the goats separated based on church attendance, baptism, tithing. I think for so long Christians (ME!) have held to the knowledge that we are saved through faith, not of works, that we think this is our Get Out of Jail Free card. We don't have to actually DO anything because Praise God, I've been saved by faith!

There's just one problem with that.


2:17 Faith, by itself, if not accompanied by action is dead.

2:26 Faith without deeds is dead.

I'm pretty sure when James talks about deeds and action he's not just talking about stuff like helping someone change a tire on the side of the road or throwing some extra money in the offering plate for the missionary. Not bad things, but not exactly touching the leper, selling all your possessions kind of things.

So I've been wrestling. Wrestling against my selfish desires. Wrestling with the "new" information I've been given. Wrestling more against my selfish desires. We do not live high on the hog. We have 2 adults & 3 children in an 800 sq foot house. We have one car. We do not have much excess. But even so, I dream big. I have big plans for our future. I have an addiction to Starbucks. I have a materialistic view that does not include much room for the orphan, widow, homeless, outcast.

Until God used a little orange book to smack me over the head. I am weary from the wrestling but thankful that God cared enough to pull me out of the American Dream pit I was in. He loved me enough to pull me out of the miry clay and He's here to steady me as I begin to walk on a new foundation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hidden Treasure

Christians say, "This world is not my home." But don't always live like it. We buy bigger houses, build bigger churches, 'need' the newest technology.... and we call them "investments." I'm starting to realize that God's heart probably breaks over the junk I've been calling treasure.
Here's some real treasure. Courtesy of Show Hope.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Children in the Church

A few weeks ago we found ourselves in a different town on a Sunday morning. We figured we'd check out a church in the area that we had heard some good things about. A very, very large church. A mega-church is not our type of church but we're open to trying something new. We drove up and there were tons of greeters, plenty of smiles and warm welcomes. We walked into the atrium (about the size of Texas) and were quite overwhelmed by all the people, tv's, music, so much going on. As we were deciding if we should sit in the balcony or not, a greeter came over with a big smile on her face and asked if we knew where to take the children. I replied that it was our first time visiting and we were just going to keep them with us. (We often keep at least the baby with us even at our own church.) With the smile on her face she then said, "Oh, ok, so then you'll be worshiping here in the atrium." WHAT??!! My husband said, "What do you mean?" and she told us that children are not allowed in the sanctuary until 6th grade. Again, WHAT??!!

"Let the little children come unto me..."

We did not stay for the service. A church that does not welcome children is not the place for us. When we got home I went on their website and looked up their children's ministry. It details how they have a special kids ministry dedicated to teaching them about Jesus on their level. It says they are so passionate about kids learning about Jesus in a way they can understand they do not allow them in the main sanctuary. Not even babies. They have a special room for moms and babies.

Now I understand that children can become disruptive during service. I have 3. I know they wiggle. I also understand that if I take them in service with me that I h
ave to take responsibility to take them out if they begin to disrupt others. But to forbid them to come in.... that just breaks my heart and angers me.

We have been in the process of looking for a church or starting a small home church. We have struggled, prayed, anguished, and gone through many different emotions as we've decided to leave our church we've attended the last 3 years. God is taking us on a new path, a new chapter of our lives. And without a doubt we know that we will go to a church that accepts children.

"... for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting Radical

Two weeks ago I went to the Christian bookstore to buy "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. Then I happened to pick up "Radical" by David Platt and bought it instead. And my heart has been broken into a million pieces that I am slowly, prayerfully trying to put back together. Because I've realized I don't want it back like it was. I want a new heart with a new view.

I will write more.... much, much more. But for now you can listen to the series here or purchase the book at your local bookstore or cheaper on Amazon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Love Explosion

You know what I'm talking about.... when your child does something and it's so sweet or adorable you think your heart just might explode from the love overflowing inside. When they do something and you think, "YES! This is the heart attitude I want to grow in my children."

It has been such a relief to see this happening more and more with my firstborn. It feels like forever that we've been teaching him about having a right attitude and we're finally seeing the fruit of our efforts.

Today my mom asked me to pick up some ice cream cones for her at the grocery store. My son told her, "Gramma, you can save your money and I'll share my ice cream cones with you. Then you can use your money for if Papa needs to fix something." It really touched my heart to hear him say this. Such a simple thing but I know that sharing (especially ice cream cones!) is not a natural response for children. This was so sweet I couldn't help but have a little love explosion inside my heart.

With Gramma at the Christmas parade last year.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Church Budgets

About 3 months ago the pastor at the church we have been attending began adding little reminders in his emails to the congregation about how giving was down at the church. Nothing tacky or rude, just the usual, "bring your tithe into the storehouse" reminders. (I'll save my tithe/giving views for another post) So finally out of curiosity my husband and I picked up a copy of the church budget that was available in the foyer.

For the record, this is a church of about 200, an evangelical, protestant denomination. After attending church for the majority of my life, I believe it to be a good representation of the average American church.

The church's budget for last year was right at $330,000. Of that, $154,000 went to salaries (Senior Pastor is the only full-time), insurance, pension, and staff gifts. Much of the rest was for building upkeep, insurance, utilities, etc. There was almost $4,000 spent in the a/v department. There was $4,500 for staff mileage reimbursement. $900 for leadership development. I could go on....

But there is this one category..... Benevolence..... and the whopping total for that ministry.... $1,000. One. Thousand. Dollars.

James 1:27 "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

It's embarrassing. Or at least it should be. How have we gotten so mixed up? And what about the Great Commission? Our church sponsors 12 missionaries at an average of $30/month. That's $4,320 for the year. Out of $330,000 only a little over 1% of the entire budget went directly to missions.

But wait, there's more.

Because of the "financial crisis" the church is currently in, about $500/week below budget for the past few months, the Pastor and LBA have approved certain halts in expenditures. What was one of those halts.... missions. They will not be supporting any new missionaries until the financial crisis improves. Ridiculous! What about faith? Or how about we church members toughen up a little. Do we have to sit in a service where it's a pleasant 68 degrees? Why not bump the temperature up a little and save on electricity. Do we need new sound equipment and big tv's? Nope. For pity's sake, the church building is small enough just a simple mic would be enough to hear the pastor. But golly, then we'd miss out on all those cool graphics in the background of the power-point presentation when we're singing.

I've probably stepped on some toes and offended somebody with this (if anyone bothers to read it, that is). But it's been on my chest and I needed to help get it off. I've probably come across and judgmental and harsh, but I'm actually just burdened. I think many churches need to remember the goal, reaching the lost and bringing them to Christ.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Great Commission

I thought my first post would be lighter. A little more upbeat. When I decided to start this blog (formerly blogging at Sunshine and Open Hearts) I thought I would blog about my daily life with 3 kids, homeschooling, homemaking, etc. I'd even planned on waiting to blog until I got my design finished. I figured if I only had 1 person that ever read my blog, I really wouldn't care. Because I found I've missed the journal aspect of blogging whether anyone reads it or not.

But then Otto Koning, former missionary to Papua New Guinea, turned my world upside-down.

Now I have a hundred things on my heart and mind and I feel like I have to get it out. I have been listening to The Pineapple Story Series and my life will never be the same. (You can listen to a few of Otto's messages here.) I have so much to share but will take this one post at a time.

Matt 28:16-20,
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

What have I been doing to further the Great Commission? Umm.... not a lot. Sure, I pray, I give, I witness when it's comfortable... probably about like most Christians. How many of us have said (or at least thought!) "I'm a missionary right here in my neighborhood." We give a huge sigh of relief that God hasn't called us to go somewhere with weird food and scary people. Now to be honest, some people really are ministering right in their neighborhood. But for most people that's a cop-out. When the missionary comes to our church we throw an extra $10 in the offering to make us feel better. And we think to ourselves, "Sure am glad God hasn't called ME to go there."

I believe that some people definitely are called to foreign missions. And what I am realizing now is that if I'm not the one on the missions field, than I had better be giving and supporting as much as possible. Not just throwing my extra $10 in the offering. I've realized I am way too busy storing up treasures on earth. God has been working on my heart, showing me the emotional value of living simply, but now He is showing me the lasting spiritual value of a simple life. If I can life simply, I can give so much more to the Great Commission. My treasures I build up on earth are really just trash if it hinders me from being able to reach the lost.

Otto Koning puts words to a thought that has been nagging my spirit but I just couldn't come up with the right words myself. He says that our American churches are so busy. We are busy building bigger churches, adding more programs, and getting sidetracked from what the Bible calls us to do, making disciples of all nations.

Sure, I would love a new laptop. Mine is 3 years old, a little crusty, and missing keys. I would love a bigger house. Where we could fit a couch instead of just a love seat. I would love a dishwasher, because right now I am the dishwasher. :) But do I really need these things, probably not. Could my money be much better spent, definitely! Are material possesions wrong, I truly don't think so. I think if our hearts and motives are in the right place, they can be fine to have. As long as we know that it is all God's and we are willing to yield our rights to possessions if the Lord asks us to.

Most likely I have bored anyone reading this. But this time I'm just blogging about whatever it is that's on my heart. Some of it might be light and fun and other times a little heavier. Either way, I'm glad to be back.