A Reminder Tucked Away…

I found a note when cleaning out my wallet the other day. I have tons of these sweet memorabilia tucked away, from the tulip drawn by granddaughter Hollyn when she was four to the ticket stub from our last date night. I’m a sentimentalist and treasure these things above all other.

But this note held even more meaning because it was a message from the Lord.

It was a simple yet direct word that He gave shortly after we moved to the Coast, in my first few weeks of ministry.

Many will come bearing no fruit. Be not dismissive, neither waste your time.

I absolutely love how the Lord can say in 13 words what would take me two pages to explain. That short message was prophetic, warning, and encouraging at once.

Many will come:  Some were coming FOR help; some were coming TO help.

bearing no fruit: They were saying the right things but their actions didn’t line up. Some were deliberately deceitful; some truly believed they were in the right spirit. (This also alludes to the fact that some WILL come bearing fruit.)

Be not dismissive: Be compassionate. Don’t get mad at the blind man for not being able to see. Do what you can to help….

neither waste your time: ….but don’t spin your wheels. There are some you need to walk away from. There are others you must draw the line between helping and enabling. We offer a chance for a new life, the hope in Christ. We plant a seed; we sometimes stick around to water it. But we don’t plant, dig, replant, water, watch, fret, add fertilizer, water some more, pull the stem out of the ground…

It was a great message and it’s served me well. Looking back, I see many people who’ve come along to minister with us who’ve fallen by the wayside. They were on fire for the Lord and now they can’t be bothered to even get out of bed on Sunday mornings. I’ve seen others denounce Christ and begin practicing witchcraft. Others, ravenous wolves from the beginning, have had their sheep masks torn away.

But in the midst of it have been the ones who’ve bloomed much fruit. So much fruit that their fruit has poured over into our orchards! We’ve met some incredible people, many of whom are still in our lives today. There have been some whose journeys only briefly intersected with ours but we still shared the same goals.

Some of the ones I thought were great Christians were not. Some of the ones I thought were (um, shall we say…) “different” were actually wonderful servants of God.

I think this is why the Lord told me to be not dismissive. Because it wasn’t just about compassion, it was also about me not rushing to judgement. Sometimes it takes some time to see clearly.

But once you do, then you need to either grab on or go on.

But don’t waste your time!

Your Viewpoint Determines Your Life. It’s Not the Other Way Around.

What a week I just had!

And not in a wow-that-was-great-let’s-do-it-again kind of way.

It was sad. And scary. And stressful. And unending.

Yet in the midst of it all there was grace. And gratitude. And thankfulness. And laughter.

Have you ever seen the movie Flipped? It’s a coming-of-age story told between the perspectives of two young kids, a boy and a girl. Same events but different viewpoints.

Life is all about your perspective.

My week, in order:

One of my best friends ended up in ICU last week.

An old high school friend was diagnosed with cancer.

My mother suffered a stroke.

A dear friend died.

I could elaborate in my misery:

My friend ended up having to have a pacemaker put in. After promising to be there with her every step of the way, I ended up leaving town the next day. Her surgery was delayed several hours and we were terrified that the increased anxiety would lead to complications.

The cancer diagnosis came just a couple of years after she became a mom, a late in life baby who’d just begun to live as she now faces death.

My mom was five hours away and I was the last to arrive at the hospital. I was helpless, and afraid, and hated that I didn’t live closer. She’d just had a medical issue where a head injury required stitches and I hadn’t been there for that, just like I hadn’t been there the last couple of times she was hospitalized.

I was with my mom when I got the news of my friend’s death, unable to help her family with arrangements, too late to make that call to check on her, the one I’d been putting off. I knew she’d been once again battling the demons inside and it cost her her life.

This viewpoint is a completely negative, glass half-empty perspective.  Not to mention that every statement above is focused on how it makes ME feel, when the truth is, while I was affected by the events above, they aren’t even about me. Allowing yourself to look at life through this lens is not only bad for you, it’s sin.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ…      2 Corinthians 10:4-5

If I want a life filled with peace and joy and obedience to Christ, I have to change my perspective. The situations didn’t change- one friend still has cancer and the other is still gone way too soon-but there’s a lot to be grateful for as well.

My week through the eyes of Christ:

One of my best friends ended up in ICU last week. She had a pacemaker put in and the surgery went well. She’s at home recovering now and I’m planning a surprise movie afternoon for her later this week with her favorite dvds and snacks.

An old high school friend was diagnosed with cancer. She has a bevy of friends rallying to help her and her family with financial expenses, as well as meals and babysitting. With a new baby at home, her spirits and determination are high. I’ve been honored to be able to help plan a benefit, one of the things our ministry does often.

My mother suffered a stroke. She fully recovered. Every member of my family that lived nearby, along with many friends, was in the waiting room that afternoon showing their love and support for my parents. My sister lives near our parents and I am so grateful that she is there to take care of their day-to-day needs, along with my two youngest daughters. I was blessed to be able to spend the week in Louisiana, spending time with them in the hospital and helping out once Mom came home. We had some great family meals after Mom came home, without the usual family holiday stress! I even got to spend time with my grandsons and my great-nephew while I was in town. I 100% believe that Mom’s stroke happening at church, along with me getting the call while I was in my church, allowed for immediate prayers to reach the Throne, causing a miraculous healing. While her quick turnaround was more indicative of a mini-stroke, the MRI showed an incident that should’ve been far worse and was indeed a full-blown cerebrovascular accident.

A dear friend died. I won’t sugar-coat this one. It was tough. I know people say things like She’s in a better place and Her suffering is over. But I don’t know. I pray that she did accept Jesus as her Savior. I know that we talked about it many times. I’m grateful that I had the chance to know her. I’m thankful that we were able to spend time together, a couple of middle-aged women who loved playing games and riding go-carts! I know that she had a chance to come to the Lord, and I’m so glad that I was placed in her life during that time. I will forever be aware that sometimes God places people in our lives who will only be there for a short time and we should use that time wisely to share His Love and His Message.

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

You can allow the devil to have free rein in your head. You can have a pity party and you can invite all your Facebook friends to join in with your woe-is-me posts. You can crank up the music that knows exactly how you are feeling and will commiserate with you. But make no mistake, you are only feeding your flesh and in your flesh is no good thing. (Romans 7:18)

If you want true comfort, the comfort that nourishes your soul, put your focus on Christ. Even in the midst of the hard times.

GEAR UP: VIRTUE

It’s Sunday night! Time to gear up for a new week. As always, the best way to do that is to PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD (Ephesians 6:10-18) but we also will focus on ONE area to strengthen our walk with the Lord. Just one focus to help us grow a faith that cannot fade with the demands of life and the pressures of this world. This week we will focus on VIRTUE!

God places a high value on being virtuous. Virtue is absolute, not relative, and situational ethics are not virtue.

Second Peter 1:5-7 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

A virtuous person is one who has high moral standards, and acts with integrity, honesty, and morality even when no one is looking. Peter tells us we are to “make every effort” to supplement our “faith with virtue,” meaning it doesn’t come naturally, even for Christians. Notice that Peter puts virtue before knowledge, but virtue with self-control leads to godliness. This godliness allows God to love others through us.

Proverbs 10:9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.

When the Bible mentions “walk” or “walking,” it is referring to a lifestyle, so whoever lives with integrity in life can rest assured they’ll walk securely. There’s a lot more damage that can be done be telling a lie than telling the truth, even to one’s own heart.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

When we’re thinking bad or negative thoughts, it’s time to dwell on virtuous things…things that are honorable, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent. It’s up to us to change the playlist in our head.

Proverbs 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Riches can’t help us walk in integrity any more than poverty can, so walking in integrity has nothing to do with a person’s social or financial status. A poor person will do far better in life walking in integrity, in this life and at the judgment, than a rich one will do who walks in his or her own way.

God upholds those who walk in integrity. Integrity is even more important in this world with all the corruption there is, so seek to be the one whose integrity and VIRTUE stand above the rest. While those around you may respect you for it, God will always EXPECT it from you.