Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ministry at the Expense of Ministering

This morning God reiterated to me how important it is to never become so "ministry-minded" that I'm no good for truly ministering. As I made the long trek down to Wendover Road, I felt very unprepared. I normally like to spend a good portion of the evening the night before in prayer and Bible study, but I had been trying to refocus priorities yesterday. I had spent the day listening to praise and worship music while accomplishing many household things I knew would bless my husband and family. The list of tasks demanded my attention on into the evening, completely bullying out any extra time to spend with Jesus.

As I talked to the Lord on the way to ministry this morning, He gently encouraged me that I was doing my best. My family and husband need me and it is difficult to learn to balance all of life's demands, especially when dealing with the additional demands my husband's chronic illness puts on me. And I had felt pretty accomplished yesterday finishing with so many check-marks on my mental list! I had not lived the day perfectly, but I had lived it well and to the best of my ability.

And so I prayed for the Holy Spirit to empty me of myself and fill me with Himself. I prayed for protection and wisdom. I prayed, as always, for the mothers, some deceived and some simply full of hate, and for the tiny little ones who would feel every agonizing cut, pull, or burn as their final moments were stolen away. (Oh, Lord, let me never forget what abortion truly is!) And I marched into the battle, believing that it is better to march forward somewhat unprepared than to retreat altogether from the battle. David himself went to battle on a "whim" with no armor or sword, but only the strength of God behind a slingshot (1 Samuel 17).

"And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:47).

As we stood there, holding the sign of precious baby Malachi, murdered at 21 weeks gestation, my co-laborer and I began to talk. Normally I stand next to the driveway entrance and stop cars coming into the parking lot to ask them if they realize that abortions are taking place just steps away. But today I felt the Holy Spirit tell me to stay put. She began asking me how I was doing, how Jon was feeling. And this led to a long conversation about some personal difficulties she and her husband are having, including unemployment and, basically, broken dreams. I listened, sensing that I was simply there to be "an ear" for her. It was an encouragement to both of us to just listen and share and contemplate why God allows these trials in our lives.

By the end of the time, I realized that my mission this morning was more than shining a light on abortion in our city or even saving babies. Ministry for me this morning was being flexible enough to listen and obey when God directed me against my routine. Did we still follow God and minister? Yes, absolutely. Just not in the way we normally would have. In fact, at the end of the morning, God sent one of his servants as a wonderful reassurance to us. Up walked a lady who introduced herself as "Phyllis." She is a Southern Baptist missionary who just wanted to come over to thank us. "I know you probably have many people honking and cursing you. But you may never know all the babies you have saved by holding that sign until you get to heaven and meet them!" She then told us of her own granddaughter who, after seeing a graphic sign like ours, fled an abortion mill and saved the life of her now four-year-old daughter, Phyllis' great-granddaughter! Before she walked off, she took a moment to put her arms around us and pray over us.

Isn't God good? What a tender and gentle shepherd, who knows we are just dust and uses each of us just where we are. Trust Him and listen in the quietness of your heart. Ministry should never take place at the expense of ministering. Regular ministry should never become routine ministry...something that requires us to follow a rigid method...or we may miss opportunities to truly minister to those God brings into our paths right now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Most Significant Effort

I just read a well-articulated article written by a lady against Common Core Standards. At the end of the article, I read all of her organizer, helped form the Tea Party in her state, wrote a novel, and "one of her most significant efforts," founded a Christian school. Wow. Another supermom. And yet, I found myself wondering at that description...especially her "most significant effort" of founding a school. I found myself wondering about her children. Did she have any? What are their ages? And why, if her other "most significant effort" was mentioned, were they not mentioned? Why was her husband not mentioned, either?

Moms, we don't have to succumb to the idea that all the "extras" are what defines us. (Lord, help me in this!) Your most significant effort today is the discipleship of your children. And if any of the novel-writing, group-starting, others-discipleship is getting in the way of your God-given roles as wife and mother, then cut them out. Just cut them out. Don't believe the lie that you must be more, do more, have more. Be what God made you and be happy to wait for a later time to fulfil whatever other talents you've been gifted with. Love is patient. Let your love for God and for your family guide your decisions of where you invest your time. For "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Treasure your family, the only "treasure" you can take with you to eternity. And never, never feel your time investment in those treasures that sit across the school table or dinner table from you is in vain. Die to self and find a sweeter life!

Excuse Rather Than Accuse

"She 'unfriended' me because I offended her."
"She didn't respond to me because she's avoiding me."
"That car cut me off because he thinks I'm driving too slowly."
"He said that to make himself look good."

Do you see a theme here? Keep on reading.

I think one of the biggest problems among Christian brothers and sisters today is in the area of judgement. We judge where we shouldn't and don't judge where we should. There is very little spiritual accountability today, as feelings are paramount to spiritual exhortation. What a bunch of spiritual wusses we are! I could write an entire book on this whole topic and have probably done so many times in my head.

But what I want to address at the moment has to do with the basic problem in the above judgements...and that is our knee-jerk judgements of motives. We seem to have a keen ability to know exactly a person's circumstances, motives, and thoughts...or so we think. How quick we are to assume we know a person's heart! This is an area of my life I have worked very hard on and am still working on. I'm sure I will be working on it until I die! Particularly, I have a hard time when it relates to a person I know well. It is easier to give the benefit of the doubt when I have no history to refer to. But when it's my husband or my son or my daughter, I have many past experiences from which to draw. I know them well, and it is easy to assume I also know their heart intentions.

But how does one really become sanctified in this area of judging motives? How do you give the benefit of the doubt? This is one of those phrases that we hear, but don't really think about. We don't ask ourselves how we can actually put it into practice. Let's look at 1 Corinthians 13:7 for the answers: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

First, you must "bear all things." That is, you will put up with all kinds of insults and injury from others without letting it get to you. I struggle myself with oversensitivity. It is a gift to be sensitive, as we can sympathize with and encourage others more easily. But when we are so fragile with our own feelings that we are constantly expressing our hurt, then we are not showing love for others and the shortcomings that are natural to humanity. We are not giving grace. Feeling hurt is one thing, but wallowing in it and expressing it is another. At that point, we are being controlled not by the Holy Spirit, but by the actions of others and how they make us feel.

If someone "unfriends" you on Facebook, for example, and you feel the impulse to start accusing in your mind, "bear all things" by praying. Pray for that person, as we are told to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). It is much easier to put up with perceived slights when we pray for the person who acted against us. Pray for them to have a good day. Pray for them to grow in Christ, if they believers, or to find Jesus if they are not. Pray for them to have grace and to "cover" any sins you may have done against them (1 Peter 4:8), and likewise for yourself to be able to do the same for them. Pray that God will protect you from pride in your "spiritual response" to their actions. Pray for whatever God lays on your heart...just pray!

Secondly, you will "believe all things." You will take the reasons and seeming excuses at face value rather than judging the heart. When your friend says, "I was just too busy to call you back for the past month," you will believe her instead of accusing her, either mentally or verbally, of making excuses or trying to avoid you. You will not dream up some elaborate scenario in which you are the afflicted victim of her cruel and inconsiderate ways. You will simply accept her reasons as true rather than as excuses...and move on.

Third, love will compel you to "hope all things." When that car cuts you off, you probably won't experience the driver pulling up to you at the next stop light to explain his rude actions. But the Bible tells you to "hope all things." This is where we get the idea of "giving the benefit of the doubt." Literally, start making excuses for him in your own mind. Don't assume he was making some point and was out to "get" you. Hope that he simply didn't see you. Maybe he is late for a very important meeting or his wife is in labor? Maybe he is distracted by some horrible news he just received? Maybe he actually did do it intentionally, but is taking out his aggression on you because he is going through deep grief? Hoping all things involves faith to believe what we cannot see or what seems to contradict what we do see.

And last, but not at all least, if you have love you will "endure all things." You will put up with that guy at work who seems to be constantly saying things to make himself look better, while you end up looking worse. Love will endure it. Love will give the benefit of the doubt...over and over and over again. Endurance has the idea of a continued practice, and if you love you will continually practice praying, believing, and hoping for the one who repeatedly wrongs you. You will continually find legitimate reasons in your own mind for his seemingly wrong behavior. Perhaps he is going through a difficult time at home being seen as the leader of his family? Maybe he has desperate financial need to be promoted? Maybe he simply doesn't realize he has the habit of saying such things or that they come across in such a way? We can never fully understand a heart.

Finally, think about all these examples. What are they? Accusations. And who is the biggest accuser of all? Satan. He is referred to in Revelation 12:10 as the "accuser of our brethren" and his very name means "accuser." So, when we start to judge the motives and heart attitudes of others, we are actually following in the steps of Satan, hurling accusations at others. And we do so in such ignorance! Jesus, on the other hand, looked down from the cross and said, "Father, forgive them; For they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Jesus had the advantage of seeing the heart and he knew that, while those who crucified Him did know they were doing wrong by crucifying an innocent man, they also did not fully understand Who He was or the implications of their actions. They were so blinded by their pride and sin, and Jesus, despite being wronged in the worst extreme, took pity on them!

It all comes down to love. Do you have love for your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you have love for unbelievers? If you do, you must understand that you will demonstrate that love by your actions, regardless of your feelings (and don't even get me started on how we idolize our feelings in this culture). You will "bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things." You will not follow in the footsteps of Satan, the accuser, but rather in the footsteps of Jesus who forgave those who spit in His face, beat Him mercilessly, and nailed Him to a cross to die in excruciating pain. If you love as Christ, you will excuse rather than accuse!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Exposing the Darkness Once Again

Today was another pretty typical early morning at Wendover. We had the angry honks and the supportive horn taps; the hate-filled yelling and cursing and the grateful thanks for information; the irritation and the appreciation. That is one thing about this usually incites some type of reaction. And shouldn't it do just that? When we talk of innocent babies being murdered in such brutal ways, people should react as the darkness is exposed and their consciences are at work. In fact, I often say that the apathetic ones are the ones that concern me most...the ones who take a tract or Tiny Hands booklet with a dead look on their faces, as dead spiritually as their tiny baby will soon be physically. But God raised dead bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14)! Even the oldest and driest dead bones can live again when Jesus redeems a heart! And oh, how we need such a revival in this spiritually dead wasteland of a "Christian" nation. So we carry on and pray on for all who are given the opportunity to see and hear the message.
We spoke to several people who were saddened and disturbed to find out that their dentist, physical therapist, etc. were practicing in the same building as a baby murderer...that while their teeth are being cleaned, a baby is suffering through his or her final moments at the hands of a killer right next door. We urged these people to talk to the businesses they patron and ask if they would be willing to move to a different location. We told them to consider that they are helping an abortionist by patronizing these businesses, as the abortionist owns the building. I believe this could be a very effective means of working toward shutting the baby-killing practice down! Please pray for that.
The memorable moments today...A lady who, as I approached her vehicle with a smile, screamed through her window with a look of anger suppressing pain, "F*** you!!!" How many times we see this same expression. I am always sad to think that if they would simply humble themselves and admit their sin, confess it to God, and repent, they could experience true peace and forgiveness. Then there was the man who honked to get in the driveway as we talked to a vehicle in front of his, then said, "I agree with you, but this is very dangerous." He seemed like a nice man and genuinely concerned, but as I said to him, "We're trying to save the lives of babies!" We cannot let anything stop us from carrying out God's will. We simply need to find means of accomplishing it. Please pray for our safety and for us to be able to know how to balance the legitimate safety concerns on this busy highway with the safety concerns of the unborn. Lives are literally at stake here. Another memorable moment was when I handed a tract to a lady who rolled her window down only to realize it was my old neighbor coming to work at one of the other offices! It was a blessing to see her smiling face. Then there was the man who drove through once and got a tract, then came back through later asking for more to give to his friends. Amen! We handed him a stack.
I also talked to a man who claimed to (and appeared to by his countenance) be a Christian, but was genuinely concerned about the signs we hold. "I don't want my children to see that. Please don't hold that up." I told him I understood and used to feel the same way. But I told him how we are commanded in Proverbs ('s Ephesians, actually), to "expose the unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11). I told him that many people don't understand what abortion is and seeing the picture shows the reality and truth. I told him that many women change their minds because of the signs. I said that we don't force it in our children's faces, but that unfortunately we live in a culture where we have to use these signs to expose the darkness. I'm not sure if he was totally convinced, but he listened respectfully and I did see some softening by the end. He seemed thankful that we were at least out there. Pray that he and other Christians will come to understand why we believe it is biblical to use such a "shock and awe" form of confrontation of sin. I believe many Christians don't understand how this can be loving and many see it as "ineffective," which couldn't be further from the truth.
After this conversation, I spoke with another man who claimed to be a Christian, but seemed to be a false convert. He used the classic "judge not" approach to say that what we were doing was wrong. He also went straight to the rape and incest argument, which is not only a rare circumstance among abortion-determined women, but also still not an excuse to violate God's command, "Do not murder." I told him we are there to help these women to not make the biggest mistake of their lives. I said that just as I would run after my daughter if she was headed toward the busy highway, we were there to keep those women from danger. However, he was not interested in listening, but argued and talked over me as he tried to prove his points. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). The proud never listen to reason or biblical counsel (Proverbs 1:7) and as a natural result, they are left to their own foolishness and their evil hearts are darkened (Ephesians 4:18).
We left in good spirits for the work that God is doing! There were no babies rescued today that we know of, but God knows every detail of each situation and each heart. We pray that our presence alone was enough to point people away from the place of death and that they will find Jesus. On a positive note, I don't think many of the cars that came were coming for abortions. We can often tell just by the looks on the faces and, of course, the gender. ;) Please pray for each of these situations and that God would work on each and every heart to bring people to him!

Monday, August 5, 2013

"Do you want to go away as well?"

I was pondering the difficulty of losing or distancing friends when we stand so boldly for truth, and God brought this passage to mind: John 6:60-71. Go read it if you need some encouragement in this regard! What strikes me is that the disciples said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" But Jesus knew that the flesh wars against the spirit and that in our flesh, we have a hard time with the tough spiritual truths. Verses 66-67: "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, 'Do you want to go away as well?'"

Isn't this exactly what we experience when we speak Jesus' words? When we follow in His footsteps? Many of our friends...the very ones who claim to know and love Jesus...turn away from us and leave us to our "zealous fanaticism." I wonder if Jesus, in His humanity, perhaps felt those same feelings of rejection and sadness that we experience? I believe so. The Bible tells us that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses" (Heb. 4:15). Yet He did not give into the temptation to wallow or be self-focused.

But Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works." So, keep being zealous for good works! God sees it and He knows your heart and your fleshly struggles. And, "declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you" (Titus 2:14-15).