Tag Archives: Evangelism

Who Me? Out On A Limb? (gulp!)

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I just finished up a bible study group called, “Open Your Bible.”

Mostly “the basics” but I enjoyed the coffee and fellowship time we had together at our local Starbucks.

(Which was the real point for me.)

I really didn’t think this study could hold many surprises, but I was wrong. The writer positively stunned me with her last “lesson” for us. It was so good I wanted to share her thought with you.

She said and I quote,

“… the truth I have come to believe is this: Sometimes, the very best thing a Christian can do is close her bible and do what it says.”
I spend a lot of time behind a desk reading my Bible, reading books about the Bible, and writing books about the Bible…So much time, in fact, that I missed an entire season of my close friend being so sick from Lyme disease that she couldn’t get out of bed.”
She goes on to say, “You guys, I was too busy reading my Bible to go visit my sick friend.”
She finished with this, “Sometimes I’m more comfortable living IN the pages of Scripture than living them OUT.”  (emphasis mine)

Oh, yeah… out there. In the real and messy world.

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Their bibles are where I think most of the Western Church lives out its spiritual life.

We like “the safety” our nice clean, air-conditioned, padded seats provide us.

I believe most of us are supremely content to “live” in the pages of our Bible, rather than out there, where the world is hostile to our beliefs.

Our fears and insecurities make us impotent.

What was it Jesus said about Salt

And Light?

Yet, we appear to do little but criticize and complain about a world intent on destroying itself.

We shake our heads in sad dismay, as we turn away, running back to the safety of our meetings, singing along with all the ones just like us.

Look, I know no one likes looking foolish. No one likes being ridiculed or rejected. Yet, I can’t help remembering a sermon I heard many years ago, and all the uncomfortable questions the guy delivering it asked me.

  • If not YOU—then, who?
  • If not HERE—then, where?
  • If not NOW—then, when?

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This is not a time for passing the buck! This is OUR time. We are His Church. We are charged with delivering His message. And lest any of us forget, we will give a full account of ourselves to Him someday—face to face.

So, yes, you might blow it.

Yes, you might get it wrong sometimes.

Yes, you will definitely encounter ridicule and rejection.

But, didn’t He tell us?

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. John 15:18John 15:18
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18 If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you.

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Here’s another thought. You might fall flat on your face, but you just might score! You might get it right. And, “Oh my goodness!” you might just make a huge difference in someone else’s broken world!

Out on that breezy limb, that’s where the best fruit is…

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Just think of it! You… bearing fruit; becoming a harvester; for Him.

He’s given you gifts!

It’s time to share them with this big ‘ole muddy, bloody, hurting, mudball!

Yeah—you were born for THIS!

Time to rock out for the Kingdom…

Until the whole world hears!

 

 

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Broken To Bless

Pottery4I think it was Ruth Graham who wrote, “…there is a broken heart in every pew.”

Many years down the road, with many a “breaking-experience” under my belt, I can say a healthy amen.

We in The Church are “a building” built from broken things.

I recall when I was the editor of my women’s church newsletter.

I went to our Women’s Director purposing a series on suffering. I offered a couple of samples topics and suggested the book of Jeremiah as our ongoing theme. Her response, “We don’t want to hear about these things. Write about happy things.”

I thought at the time, “Seriously?”

I personally knew of many people in our church that were going through a very difficult time.

There were single moms, struggling to get to the next payday, wondering how they would feed their kids. Divorced dads, hemorrhaging internally, but wearing stoic smiles. People out of work wondering only two things—where and when? Folks dealing with catastrophic illnesses, for themselves, or their families. Marriages that were being held together with scotch tape, and half-hearted,  “why-do-we-even-bother” prayers.

Could she not see? Did she not hear? Or, was it just the same old coldness of heart that chooses to walk by the bleeding and broken, choosing “the other side of the road” like Jesus related in the parable of The Good Samaritan.

Today, thirty years later—I still do not understand it.

How can people who meet together to sing about loving the Lord, listen intently to all those fine-sounding-sermons about reaching the lost, but then pass the lost, messy, and broken—looking right through them?

Perhaps it’s going through a few breakings myself. Knowing firsthand, the pain and confusion; the helplessness; the dark and intense days suffering brings.

And yes, I know there are “professional victims” in our Churches. Those who seek a continual attention-feast every time you encounter them. (Yes, I know.) I have also encountered the drama-queens (and kings) who suck all the emotional oxygen from the room. Every church has these folks.

The trick, as I see it, is to not let their choices blind you to the genuine suffering that is all around us.

We are buildings filled with the broken, and yes, sometimes messy ones. People whose lives are in crisis and need our compassion and tenderness.

Our simple and decent caring.

That is what I am pleading for here—hearts that care for the wounded and brokenhearted, rather than walling ourselves off behind aloof and superior stone walls.

Jesus calls each of us to reach for His basin and towel.

My bible says no one is exempt:

Does He not call you, too?

Jesus was always tender with broken hearts—asking what He could do.

Are we, not all called by Him, to do the same?

Is not the last word… His words to us?

 “…YOU …do as I have done for you.”

BROKEN VESSEL

Into a shop, I chanced to go
Seeking vessels high and low
When in a box I casually spied
A broken vessel—cast aside

At first glance, I thought I’d take
These broken pieces for to make
A vessel “new” from broken things
To carry songs and glad tidings

But no! My Master bid me take
This broken vessel, for His sake
And look again… “This jar was you…
Before My loving grace you knew!”

“I came into this world so dark
Received the nails that made their marks,

To gather vessels—not a few,
Shattered and broken, just like YOU;

To bring to wholeness once again,
To piece and polish, glue and mend…”
Ahhhhhhhhhh, now I see!” I answered Him.

“The centerpiece for which I search,
To show, display, inside the Church,
Is BROKEN—like so many more,
That wait for us outside these doors.”

Why are we oh so slow to learn?
Why don’t we see that what man spurns,
Is just the ONE that God will use?
He chooses MOST what we refuse!

I thank you LORD for taking me
A BROKEN THING—that all could see,
Had little use… not much could be…
Reclaimed… restored… for Your glory!

 

 

 

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Beloved Prodigal… (Part 1 ~ bat Shuvah)

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The road you’re on is not an easy one. (I should know.) I have been down your road.

It is for that reason I wrote this book.

I am hoping it will plant some seeds of trust in that heart of yours.

The Jewish would call me “bat Shuvah”—she who has returned.

I have returned.

  • To my Abba-Father God.
  • To The Church.
  • I am a Prodigal no longer.

Yes, I returned.

But you know what?

I confess (even today) I still struggle to not get discouraged and go over that hill again.

Perhaps that’s because I also have learned—today’s Church can be a cold and lonely place for the wounded and broken. All the disillusioned, angry, and messy-ones. And yeah, it scares me to confess that truth to you.

Truth is, I grew up in a house full of secrets.

In my house?

It was definitely not okay to be wounded or broken.

(That would have been admitting the truth.)

No, appearances had to be kept up at all cost. Illusions were prized far above truth.

I still shake my head today, thinking back, looking at the choices my parents made I wonder, “Why would anyone want to live like that?” Then, I look at how it still is in today’s Church and I realize, not much has changed. People still live lives of posing and pretense.

Perhaps they think it easier… less messy—to just fake it.

But my heart has to ask, “Isn’t that just a waste… to live an unreal life?”

I mean…

“How do you ever become “REAL” without telling your real story?”

6a1d6b965ff0038f17473284a4997d96So, here it is. Mine, with all of its ugly scars, brittle edges, and more than a little healed-crooked, hard won, Jacob-type-leaning, and limping.

I’ve come a long way from that crooked and broken road.

(Been through some fierce storms, too.)

I hope I’ve learned—a little…

And maybe even earned… my place?

To speak to that deeply wounded heart of yours.

 



 


 

CODE RED

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I am stumbing through grief again.

“So soon?” my heart whispered.

It seems as if I had just recovered from one huge loss when I got the jarring news that someone I loved dearly had been whisked away.

Gone.

Death always jars me to my toes.

I never get used to it no matter how many times I walk through it.

And I wonder, “Is this the way it is with everyone?”

So here I am again walking through each day in a kind of a gray fog. Trying to concentrate on the next thing; the next step; the next breath; and not doing a very good job of any of it.

My eyes gush tears when I least want them.

My heart overflows with this new empty.

I am lost in a maze of memories I can’t hold back or control no matter how hard I try.

I drift. I flounder.

I reach for answers I already know I won’t find; can’t find, until Jesus and I are face to face.

I scold myself. Telling myself, “This is how it is at your age. Loss will be a regular part of normal now.”

But grappling with that truth doesn’t help much.

The bible warns us, “You do not know what a day will bring forth.”

“Yeah.” I think. “No kidding.”

Like the other day.

We had just had a nice lunch with some visiting family. A pleasant afternoon. Peaceful. Little did we suspect that in just a few short hours we would be sitting in the kitchen reminiscing and the phone would ring with words flashing across the T.V. screen — CODE RED!

I stared at the screen then at the face of my friend as her expression went from happy to grave.

She was listening intently to the message from our caller.

emergency-response-training-9-638Then she hung up and calmly announced, “We have been told to pack up whatever we can and be prepared to evacuate.

There is a wildland fire burning north of here; it’s headed our way.”

We just stared at one another for a moment, stunned; trying to absorb the warning; trying to think. What should we do first?

What do you pack up when you have only moments to decide what needs to be saved, and what you must walk away from, and surrender to the flames?

“You do not know what a day will bring forth…”  James 4:14James 4:14
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14 Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.

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warns.

(For sure!)

The ONLY thing that is certain in this life is it’s abiding and constant uncertainty.

So let me ask you a question

“What are you going to decide to do with His pearl that we call: The Gospel?”

It is the MOST important decision you will ever make.

Perhaps this is your CODE RED.

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Apart from His blood that He shed on His cross FOR YOU, to cover your sin, so that you can walk into the city of God, a citizen of His Kingdom?

You have no hope of heaven!

There is no other way.

The micro-second you step into eternity your decision and the choice have been made. It will be settled for all of eternity. No arguments. No explantions. No second chances, or do-overs. Nope.

None of us know when death will come knocking at our door.

(None of us do.)

Don’t put this decision off.

Some things can wait.

This can’t.

To refuse to decide — is to decide.

Denominational Squabbling Or What This Gospel Isn’t

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Denominational Made-up-Minds.

(Oh baby!)

Of all the things in The Church, perhaps this is the thing that scares me the most. This blind prejudice to, “We have always done it this way.” or “That is what my daddy believed, what my mama believed, and by golly, it’s what I believe!”

Well… okay then! Pardon my seeing this Glorious Truth through a slightly different lens than yours… and ummmm, is this what you call, “…walking in love?”

I think this intransigence I encounter to other interpretations, or points of view when interpreting the bible, is a prime breeding ground for strife and argument.

Jesus ate with publicans and sinners didn’t He?

And you mean we can’t tolerate someone who prays in a different style than ours? Sings with lifted hands? Waves banners? Chooses a different day to meet? Or, heaven forbid, voted for that other guy! Etc., etc., etc.

If you want to turn a devout-denominational into a cold fish at best, or a snarling junkyard dog at its worst, just begin to challenge their long held, “you’ll-pry-them-out-of-my-cold-dead-hands” beliefs.

Oh my, can you feel the love?

churchMy bible teaches me God’s “love language” is unity.  The bible speaks constantly about it, especially in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Doesn’t he implore us to do this over and over again?

Didn’t Jesus?

I just don’t believe division is really God’s idea.

(I think it took all of us to think this one up!)

witnessGod knows there is power in unity.

There is peace.

It’s in the book! [Ephesians 4]

No, we don’t all interpret the bible the same way.

I know.

But if we can agree on essentials—then do we really need to divide over the rest?

What childish nonsense.

Can’t we grant one another a certain degree of freedom for love’s sake?

Why do we treat others with such cold and hostile disdain, or disrespect those, who simply see things a little differently or choose to worship in a style that is contrary to ours?

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Is that a reason for giving or taking offense?

The hour is late and I think most of us believe Jesus’ return is imminent. So… let’s be about our Father’s business. We have a Harvest to bring in. For love’s sake let’s stop our petty bickering and finger-pointing.

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What a relief, if we could all just decide to let go of the rope!

What delight there is in dwelling together—in peace!

Let’s do what we have been gifted for and have been called to do, in the unity of love; taking from that unity the power we need from the Holy Spirit in all of us.

Our mandate is not to figure out who is right and who is wrong.

Rather, our commission is to reach the lost, bind up the broken, and rescue the perishing—while we still can!

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4
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The Infinite Value of One

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We live in a day when everyone seems to be chasing BIG numbers.

(We measure by numbers.)

Big numbers seem to say, “This person is important.” or “You need to own that thing that everyone else is buying.”

Big numbers seem to equal a BIG deal.

Bigger equals better—that’s the world’s mantra!

But remember? The Kingdom of God is usually running counter to the world; the way the world thinks; and this I find to be particularly true when it comes to calculating the value of individuals.

Most media sites these days have folks seeking large volumes of “Followers or Friends, with people in hot pursuit of the most, Views or Shares.”

Unfortunately, no matter how many you might get? You’re always going to find some other guy out there, with a “score” that makes yours look like very small potatoes.

(…sigh.)

Welcome to my world.

I was thinking about this a lot this morning (definitely feeling like small potatoes) when I heard the Holy Spirit whisper softly to me,

“Would you still write, if there was only one person you were actually reaching each day? Would they matter? Would you write to encourage only them?”

Only them? Only one.

I said, “Yes LORD, even if there was only one because I know—every ONE matters to You. You left the ninety-and-nine to go and care for that one lone sheep. I know we all matter to you LORD. Every. single. one. We matter. Every single moment.”

You do matter, you know?

You are the only you God created. You are unique. Special. One of a kind!

Others may treat you as just another number on their score card, or just another “sale” they wanted to tot-up… but you are of so much more value than that.

So if today, you are feeling especially insignificant?

Please remember this:

You are priceless in the eyes of God.

He sees YOU and He has great plans… for YOU.

In His economy? One is a very BIG deal.

(So… you are.)

Who can guess at what “just one” might accomplish in this world?

Like maybe just one little… (previously unknown and unheard of…) Belgium nun—for instance?

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How much God cherishes each—one, of us.

There is a world-changer inside of you!

Maybe it time to turn the Infinite One inside of you, loose?

The two of you shall shake the earth.

(Count on it!)

 

Messenger Of Hope

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It’s time to open wide your mouth

And scatter as you sing,

The seeds of joy—from tears you shed

Into the hearts of those I bring

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You are the one I’ve chosen child

For this time near the end

To be My Kingdom’s messenger

Sowing hope in hearts we’ll mend

~~~

You’ve been blessed to be a blessing;

As you’re sent throughout the earth,

To gather up the sheaves of harvest,

As Spirit brings forth new births

~~~

Comfort as you have been comforted;

Bind up all heart’s that bleed

Tell them the love of Jesus

Will heal their every need

~~~

Share your story of loss and pain

Of struggles, grief, and scars,

Of dark’s defeat, and hopes now bourne,

On victorious wings—up to the stars!

~~~

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Out On A Limb

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I know You are the Tree of Life

That, I can clearly see

And out there on that frightful limb

Is where You’ve beckoned me

~~~

You’re calling me to come again

To that old place where I have been

How can you ask me Lord to go?

Back to prison-place, I  hated so

~~~

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You’re asking me to trust You;

Didn’t I do that once before?

I asked You for a miracle

Instead You closed all doors

~~~

Yet something deep within me knows

No safer place can be

Than out there on that dreaded branch

To cling, and wait for Thee

~~~

So here I am—please take my fears

 Give new heart  brave and bold;

Away old doubts—bring me out!

So I can soar, when wings unfold…

~~~

I’ll pay the price so I can fly

Up to that moon of gold

With love from You—and dreams anew

Bringing hope to young and old!

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Part IV – The Parable

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Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.

―Neil Gaiman

~~~

The God of peace will soon crush

Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

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20 And the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

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Bring Back The Wonder

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“… bring me back LORD, where I first started. I always found my answers there.”

—line from song, title unknown

It was a glorious spring day.

All soft warm sunshine; breezes wafting up from the river.

We were at a private ranch. Somewhere I had previously not visited and even today, could not give you directions to, or explain how I got there.

My memories of that day are selective. But what I do remember? Those I recall here with perfect clarity:

There was this large open field that had to be crossed from where we parked the car, to get to our ultimate destination, which of course was the river. It was to be my day of baptism, and I was nervous. I grew up in church but the idea of baptism? Of me being put under that water? It had always made me very uncomfortable.

In the little church on the corner where I began, there was this tank in the wall, with a large opening to the auditorium down below. You accessed it from a small hidden doorway in the back—narrow stairs leading up to it. The thing always gave me the creeps. I cannot tell you why. I don’t know. I only know that people always seemed to go down into that water extremely apprehensive, and come up spitting and sputtering, and gasping for air if not actually choking.

I wanted no part of it… or baptism. Not if I had to endure that dreaded tank!

Imagine then my dismay when years later, having “come back” to the Church after ten prodigal-years, I find myself in a church I enjoy, but with exactly the same kind of (you got it) tank-in-the-wall! Each Sunday the pastor would invite any of us who had not been baptized to become so. He would stress the imperative of “following Jesus publicly,” and every Sunday I would secretly in my heart say:  “I’m sorry God—I can’t. I just can’t!

I tell you all of this to relate my heart’s absolute knowing of this thing called—the grace of God.

I know you probably hear those words constantly these days.

(Too much—if you ask me.)

Those words have become so commonly bandied about, I think they have lost much of their uniqueness, and wonder.

And it is such a wondrous thing… His grace.

So there I am squirming in church each Sunday. Wanting with all my heart to obey this command to be baptized… yet caught in the grip of this unreasoning fear that will not let me go! Inwardly tormented with a guilty disappointment, that kept me good and trapped between what I wanted to do, and what I dreaded doing.

Oh, but this sweet and knowing grace. This Grace that knows, the who, and where, and why, of each of us. This grace that feels all our shame and embarrassment at our own fears and failing, yet hears our earnest heart speaking its inner longings, and so He quietly goes to work on our behalf.

The month was February, foggy and cold in our valley. All baptisms must be indoors, and in that dreaded tank… which to my wonder and immense relief has suddenly sprung a leak!

All baptisms cancelled until it can be fixed.

(Oh, thank you God!)

The church called for the repair men confident it will be soon fixed.

March comes and the list of people to be baptized is growing longer and longer.

April comes, and goes, but they can’t find the illusive leak. Indeed, every time they fill that tank it leaks water everywhere, and they have to drain it and start all over again.

Now, it was about this time that my guilt and my fear were in locked mortal hand-to-hand-combat. I am happy to tell you obedience and love finally conquered doubt… but the fear and dread remained.

Each Sunday my heart “threw down” with the dreaded tank in the wall.

“I can do this. I can do this.” I whispered to my childhood’s nemesis. “I will do this Jesus. I will.

(Ah, but He knew.)

Knew my fear was pounding me week after week in these secret battles—and winning.

May finally arrived. May! When the valley becomes all sunshine-warmth, and sweet-smelling showers of pink and white blossoms in the peach and almond orchards. May… when the list of those to be baptized has grown to such prodigious proportions that a new decision is finally reached… we shall all go to the river!

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And so, His kind and marvelous grace has brought me here, to this field, walking toward a new and entirely unknown experience… one that is to become one of the most wondrous of my life!

The air is warm, the water only three feet deep, and is crystal clear; flowing slow and lazy. The riverbank is small and narrow; so far out in the country not many people came. Instead our group is few in number and intimate (for the girl who also has a deep fear of public speaking) and so only has to “testify” to a few smiling and accepting faces.

We didn’t have to fall backwards into that horrid tank (as in my childhood’s dreading) but simply get on our knees and fall forward, into that clear sweet water called the Stanislaus River.

I remember I came up out of that river feeling clean—and wondrously free.stanislaus-river

I could see my dad beaming at me from that small group on that tiny wedge of beach, and I could feel my Heavenly Father’s arms wrapped snuggly around my heart, hugging the stuffins’ out of me.

It was all such wondrous grace!

And, for the first time, I knew. This intimate personal love and understanding of God for me—all by myself—with all my fears, faults, and failings.

Such is His Grace!

My heart soaring, I just could not go back home that day as if something ordinary had occurred.

So I headed to the park down the street.

I climbed into a swing, full of all that childlike wonder, and I soared—the way I used to do when I really was a child!

Grace, such a wondrous thing! The intimate and tender love that He has for each of us. Truly, it gives the heart wings as if it really could fly!

I think C. S. Lewis must have been thinking of the wonder of God’s grace when he wrote:

And that is enough to raise your thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex forever will also drown her pride… Perfect humility dispenses with modesty.”  

― C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory