The Idols Within….

Living in a land of idols and among carved images brings me much thought of the “idols” within.

Walking past temples the other day, I asked myself what idols do I struggle with?

And the response made me tremble.

For you see, all too often I believe my greatest idol is myself.

See an idol is anything we put above or in the place of God. And more than I’d care to admit, I realized how easily it is for me to elevate my needs, my wants, my feelings, my comfort, my time etc. above the Lord. My, my my!

And I think if we are all honest, this can on many days be said of us all.

When kids are small and they grab a toy and say mine, we laugh. Yet, that natural inborn tendency remains for life. Causing us to value our own feelings, needs, and desires above others.

Which is precisely why Paul tells us in Philippians 2 to, think of others, look out for the interest of others, more than ourselves. Because this doesn’t come naturally, it is something we all must work at.

Another way we idolize ourselves is when we have a tendency to look to ourselves rather than God. To depend upon ourselves, rather than Him. To try to figure things out, rather than trust the Lord. All I’m ashamed to say I am guilty of.

And when we do this, we have placed ourselves in the position worthy only of the Most High.

In my quiet time the other day I read, “For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:10

He alone is God. We are not.

“Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” Psalm 100:3

He alone made us and all in this world, we did nothing.

Yet, far to often we look to ourselves to fix the situation, depend on  ourselves or others when anxious. Rather than turning to the Lord, the one and only who has the power to do above and beyond all we could ask or think!

This past Sunday my husband preached on the grain of wheat, and how until it dies, it can not bear fruit.

The same is true of ourselves. Until we learn to die to ourselves, our wants, our desire, our selfish tendencies, we will not bear much fruit. The fruit is a result of death. 

Jesus put it this way, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

To follow Christ, to bear fruit, to be His disciple. It means denying self, carrying our cross daily, so that we can follow Him.

Jesus made it clear, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24

We can not serve ourselves and God. It won’t work, we must choose to serve the Lord, and discipline ourselves to put Him on the throne in our lives.

Paul said he beat his body into submission. Why? Because he knew how weak his flesh was. He knew that though his heart was set on serving the Lord, that his flesh wanted to serve himself.

This same battle takes place within us.

So, how do we overcome?

Simply put, we don’t. He does.

When we reckon ourselves dead to self and alive to Christ.

Yet, it is much more complicated than just that. Because it involves daily dying to what we want, and submitting ourselves to what the Lord wants instead. It means looking to Him, rather than ourselves, depending on Him for everything, seeking Him first, and treasuring Christ.

How we live reflects who we serve. What then does your life reflect, you or Christ?

May we seek to reflect Christ to this dark and dying world. For Jesus is the only, true hope.

Discipling Our Children


It’s hard to believe but my oldest will turn 15 in the fall, my middle child will turn 13 this month, and my youngest 9, also this month. As I watch them grow and change, and as I’m reminded by Facebook of my previous memories. I’m amazed at where the time has gone.

And as I contemplate this, I’m left with one thought. That though, I wish them the best in their lives, the best in their studies, the best in what the Lord calls them to. What matters most is that they love and serve the Lord.

My greatest ministry is that to my children. If I disciple hundreds, yet fail to teach my own, I have failed.

As I have been reading in Judges, I’ve noticed this is exactly what happened to the Israelites. Though the people who had seen the Lord’s deliverance continued to serve the Lord, they failed to teach their children. They failed to pass down the stories of God’s deliverance, as they had been instructed.

For in Judges 2, we are told that a new generation rose up who neither knew of the Lord nor of what He had done. And this generation did evil in the eyes of the Lord.

It is easy to look at society and complain of the new generation, to blame media and technology, all of which certainly do impact lives. Yet, as parents it is our duty to teach our children the things of the Lord. Our responsibility to share with them what God has done in our lives. It is not the job of the pastor, the Sunday school teacher or the youth director, it is our job.

Here in Nepal, we attend a church made up of mostly first generation Christians. People who have seen and experienced the hand of God, and watched as their whole families have been saved. But, it is also a church of a growing second generation. Children and youth who attend simply because their parents make them, or because it is the thing to do. (Much like kids and youth in the USA).

Yet, it is not enough they attend, not enough that they grow up in a “Christian” home rather than a Hindu home. They must be taught God’s Word. They must hear the testimonies of what God had done, they must experience the Lord personally in their own lives.

My kids have all professed Christ as their Savior, a fact for which I give thanks. Yet, we have told them we will inspect their lives. And that if we see that they are not producing the fruit of a Christian, we will point it out in their lives. Something I wish others had done for me. For even Scripture teaches us to be sure of our salvation!

I do not want my kids to believe, to go to church, to do “Christian” things because it is expected. I want my kids to yearn and desire after Christ. To hunger and thirst after His Word. I long to see them experience the Lord personally in their lives, not just in our families lives. For them to recognize the Lord’s hand in each aspect of their lives.

Yet, these things don’t just happen. They require me to pray, to teach, and to help them see what God has done, is doing, and will do.

We live in a day similar to that of the Judges, where people do as they see fit. Among a people who neither know the Lord, nor know of what He has done. And this is not the fault of society, the school, or the church.

May we be faithful to train up our children in the ways of the Lord. May we be faithful to disciple them to be the women and men of God that He desires them to be. May we recognize their importance, and may we pour ourselves into them.

They are ours to care for only a little while. Then they are gone. The Lord has blessed our lives with them, entrusted them into our care. Let us then be faithful to the responsibility given to us!

When we miss out on what God has because we are afraid…

I still remember the fear, I had never done any evangelism before. Yet, here I was, a first year seminary student doing evangelism on the University of Memphis campus. I listened and learned as others in my group approached students hanging out after class. Then they said it was my turn. I was so afraid. I mean I knew God desired that I tell others about Him, I knew that these needed to hear the Good News. But, man was I afraid.

I could have gone running the other way or got my friend to take my place. Yet, if I had I would have missed out on what God had in store. For as I began to share the Gospel, the students listened respectively, but in the end basically said, thanks but no thanks and walked away. I was disappointed, but happy I had obeyed the Lord. But amazingly there was another girl I had not noticed standing nearby who had heard everything I had said. Before I knew what was happening, she approached me, and asked me to tell her what she needed to do to be saved! Awesome! Had I let my fear rule, I would have missed out.

Fast forward 8 years or so when I was sitting in my comfortable home in Tennessee. When the phone rang with a request from a professor that my husband and I pray about moving to Korea to teach in a seminary. Again, I could have let my fear of the unknown, the fear of raising my kids abroad, the fear of all the details that had to be worked out keep me from obedience. But, I would have missed two of the best years of my life, as our family served the Lord in South Korea.

Now, here I sit in my house in Nepal. Living here with my family for almost 3 years now. The unknowns once more could have kept me from this place. In fact I wrestled with God about bringing my kids to this faraway land. Yet, once more I can’t imagine the joys I would have missed had I let my fear keep me from here.

But this has not always been the case. I can’t begin to list the different times I have allowed fear to keep me from obedience. When my husband and I first married, we were on our way to China. We were almost through the process with our mission agency, ready to go to orientation and training when along came our first-born. One look at his tiny face, and my heart constricted in fear. No way was I taking this little one to China. Surely God would understand, surely my husband would understand. And sure, they did understand, but to this day I live with that regret. For I know now that the same God who has cared for us all these years, would have cared for us then. I know I missed out on seeing what God could have used us to accomplish for him. I know that our lives today would be far different, had I not allowed fear to stand in the way, but had embraced what God had.

Thankfully, God can always take our mistakes, take our fears and use them for His glory. I have no doubt He did this in our lives, but I know then and at other times I let fear keep me from experiencing what God had.

Even now there are unknowns of what the tomorrows hold. Easy for me to want the security of what makes sense. The security of the constant, the comfortable. Rather than setting aside fears, and letting God lead.

As I have been reading through Deuteronomy I have been amazed at this same theme. The Israelites whom God delivered from the hand of Pharoah as they walked across the Red Sea never knew the joy of living in the Promised Land. The missed out on the great things the Lord had because of their fear and rebellion against Him.  In chapter 2 Moses repeats to the next generation, those who would enter into the Promised Land, “do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” He repeatedly told them this, because he knew their hearts. He had seen how fear and discouragement had kept the others from believing and trusting God. He had watched as each one died in the wilderness, missing out on what God had. So he tells them, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged!!! Trust God, believe Him!!

This same message rings true for each of us today. Of course what God ask of us will be different. Our lives are not meant to be compared. Yet, we each have a choice to make. Will we believe God, following Him despite our fears? Or will we allow our fears to cause us to miss out on what God intends. We can remain comfortable and safe or we can let go of our fears and trust God for the impossible.

Again I am thankful for how God can and does use our mistakes, our failures to accomplish His plans. I’m thankful that nothing is wasted. Yet, I long to trust Him more, believe Him for greater things,and watch in anticipation of what He can and will do for those who truly have their faith completely in Him.

People Need the Lord

people-need-the-lordI remember it like it was yesterday. For years I had put it off, until there was no more time to delay. It was a must. I had to do it….

That is I had to take the dreaded speech class so I could graduate from college. A class I had literally dreaded since I began college.

Growing up I was nicknamed “Mute” by a guy I went to school with, because in class I didn’t talk unless the teacher made me do so. Sure, I talked with my friends, but the idea of getting up in front of people was too much, especially a bunch of people I didn’t know.

But at last I had to take the class… so I did what all brave young college students do. I opted to wait and take it in summer school, where I knew there would be fewer people to embarrass myself in front of.

In order to pass the class, we obviously had to give a speech, and incorporate our speech into an activity. It had not been long since God had rocked my world and drawn me back to Him. And I was always looking for opportunities to tell others about him.

So I did my speech on sign language and signed the song, “People need the Lord.” A definite truth on my college campus and even in my small class.

But the other day as I was walking through the streets of Kathmandu, the Lord brought this song vividly to mind.  The first few lines of the song say, “Everyday they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes. Empty people filled with cares, headed who knows where?”

And that is exactly what I see here. So many I pass seem to have an empty, hopeless look in their eyes. So many who live here have given up hope. Because for many it is just about making it through another day.

The truth is no matter where you live, America, Africa, Korea, China, Nepal there are people you pass everyday who need the Lord. They are hopeless because they have not met the only One who can bring hope to their weary souls.

And if we aren’t careful, we can pass the people by and grow indifferent. Or hurriedly pass the opportunities God is brining into our paths by.

No matter where God has you. No matter what your job title… we are all called to tell the lost about Him. We are all called to make disciples. We are all called to lead them to the cross.

So from a college campus to a city on the other side of the world, people need the Lord. And everywhere in between.

 

Mountain tops, desserts and valleys…….

jesus-lover-of-my-soulI grew up in church, I can’t remember a time in my childhood when I wasn’t in church. We went three times a week, rain or shine. And it was a great church. I have such wonderful memories of this time. It was here that God began a work in me, a work He would be faithful to complete.

In college, like many teens, I drifted away from God. Beginning to do my own thing, and for the first time ever I wasn’t in church. I was living for me.

But God…

He wasn’t finished with me. He was not willing to let me go my own way. The Bible says that the one He loves, He disciplines. And God brought discipline into my life by taking from me people whom I loved, who meant the world to me.

And by doing this, He drew me back. He stirred the dying embers of my heart, and established in my heart, in my life an amazing love for Himself. Though alone, He was my best friend. My highlight of the day was my quiet time alone with Him. He was the lover of my soul.

Fast forward a few years and I was found in Seminary, training to serve the Lord overseas. Daily, I was able to sit in chapel, and hear God’s Word preached. Daily, I was able to sing praises to Him.

Then I graduated, got married,had a little boy, and off we went to serve our first church.

And life was not the same, not so easy.

The busyness of life seemed to interfere with my walk, with my passion for the Lord.

And through the years since this time, serving in other churches, living overseas. When I look back it seems my walk with the Lord, my passion for Him has been a roller coaster.

Sometimes, it has been high. When it seems the communion with the Lord is so close, so intimate. Then there have been times when it has been low, when the Lord has seemed so far removed, so far away. And there have certainly been times of plateau. Times when I was neither hot, nor cold, but lukewarm. Found to be doing what is expected, found to be going through the motions, and yet missing HIM.

This morning as I sat in church and sang, my heart was yearning for HIM. And I was reminded as I sat there of the times in my life when my walk with the Lord was closer, more intimate. And I longed for that now.

Having served the Lord full-time for about 17 years now, I know that there are mountain tops, there are desert times and there are valleys. I realize that we don’t live on the mountain tops, nor in the desert. But that most of that time we are in the valley.

Yet, I realize that even in the valley, no especially in the valley, God is still at work.

Though I’d love to experience the mountain tops more. I’m also aware of the fact that if I lived there, I would need Him less.  Though I’d rather avoid the desert, I know that without the desert I’d never learn to depend on Him. And I know that God uses the mountains and the dessert to prepare me to live daily in the valley.

Just as there are seasons in life, there are seasons in our walk with the Lord. Yet, that does not mean we must not seek Him. God puts that yearning in our hearts for those closer times, so that we will draw near to Him. He reminds us of the mountain tops, and invites us to come away with Him.

As I look back on my life, one thing is for certain, the work He began, He has been faithful to continue, and though He is not done with me yet,I know He will be faithful to complete what He started.

And the same is true of you…

Don’t let the business of life keep you from your true Love. Don’t let the rituals of worship keep you from the Lover of your Soul.

Seek Him, seek the things of Him, and watch as the things of this world become insignificant as you realize the significance of the One you serve. The One who loves you despite yourself, who died in your place, who paid your ransom, and who longs to be your greatest desire.

 

Living Holy, living forgiven!

living-holyAs I have been working my way through Leviticus, I’ve noticed a theme. God’s call for His people to be holy. He gives them rules to follow, so that they will be holy. Yet, as I read all these rules, I realize what an impossible thing He has asked of them. An impossible thing He has asked of all of us, since we also are told to be holy because He is holy. Or is it?

Today I was having a Bible study with a friend via Skype, and as we looked at Ephesians 1, I was reminded and exhilarated by the fact that we are holy because of Christ. In Christ, we are blameless, holy, redeemed and forgiven. Not because of us, but all because of Him.

God has not asked us to do the impossible, He has done the impossible for us, through Christ!

Yet, if your anything like me, you still try to make yourself holy. Oh you know what I mean. You seemingly think that God loves you more when you follow the rules and that He must not love you nearly as much when you have a bad day.

But we have it all wrong, because God’s love for us does not change!

The enemy would rather us believe the lie. He longs for us to believe we are not good enough, that God is angry with us, that we have failed way too many times for God to ever use us. He wants us to beat ourselves up, because what he really wants is for us to quit on the Lord. To just live for ourselves, rather than living for the Lord. If he can get us to do this, he has won. We are no longer his enemy, we have become his friend.

But, God has not called us to that. He has made us holy and blameless so that we will live for Him and His glory. He has redeemed us and forgiven us to glorify His name, and so that our lives may glorify His name.

We can not earn God’s love, because He freely gave us His love.

We can’t be good enough, we will always fall short. Yet, that’s why when we were enemies of God, Christ died in our place.

He doesn’t want us to perform, He wants us to surrender all to Him.

Before the foundation of the world, He chose you. He called you and set you apart for His purposes, for His good works which He had planned for you (Ephesians 1).

Why you might ask?

For His praise and for His glory. Everything God does, He does for His name sake. He does to make Himself known. He does for His honor and His glory. Because only He is worthy!

So today, I encourage you to be who God has called you to be. 

Live forgiven, live blameless, live holy!

Because everything that you are not.. Christ is!

The Levitical Laws and Today

bible studyBack in January, I began reading through my Chronological Bible again, which I love. Yet, there are certain times in the year when this reading gets a bit difficult. For instance now, reading through Leviticus. I diligently plow on through, but often wonder if or how it applies.

But then things like what I read today, leap from the page, and I realize, it does certainly apply.

Today I was reading along and came upon this verse,

You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” Lev. 15:31

As I read this I realized how relevant to us as Christians this verse is. Now obviously we do not have to follow the same ceremonial cleansing periods they did in the OT times, and certainly the foods we eat, clothes we wear etc do not make us unclean. Yet, this isn’t the point God was speaking to my heart about.

In the OT times, these things did make them unclean, and so God is telling Moses to keep them separate from the things that would make them unclean, so they could enter into His presence.

And though the rules don’t apply to us, the concept certainly does. For just as they were to keep themselves from things that would make them unclean. So also, should we not keep ourselves from things that cause us to sin. For just as their uncleanliness kept them from the Lord’s presence, so sin keeps us from meeting with God.

Jesus even spoke on a related subject in the New Testament, when He said if your eyes causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your arm causes you to sin, cut it off. Pretty strong words, that depict the seriousness of sin.

As I thought on this, the Lord spoke to my heart telling me that I too must keep myself from things that lead me to sin. Be it the movies I watch, the music I listen to, the books I read, the people I hang out with etc.

If any of the above things, cause me to sin and make me unclean. I should have no part of them.

And I would venture to say that this same concept applies to all believers and not just me.

So, how serious are we about sin? Are we concerned that it keeps us from God’s presence or do we shrug it off, blame it on others or make excuses for it?

Thankfully we do live in the New Testament times, and no longer must follow all the laws given in Leviticus. Nevertheless, keeping ourselves from sin should be important to us. Necessary for us, so that we might enjoy living in His presence.

So yes, reading through some portions of Scripture are definitely more difficult than others.. they are still God’s Word. His Word which is still living and active and useful for our teaching, correcting and rebuking.

May we too throw off all sin that entangles us and may we run the race Christ has given to us to run.. for His glory!