It’s Not On You, It’s On God

This morning as we were driving to church a scruffy well-tanned homeless man with tattered blue jeans and a dirty shirt, walked up the median near the interstate on-ramp with the standard cardboard sign with a black magic marker message. “Homeless. Hungry. Anything helps.” We’ve seen this particular man before be-bopping up the median with a smile, holding a peace sign, as he trod the concrete path hoping to entertain for a buck. I even looked around the car and we did not have any food to give so I sat there in the guilt that I usually feel for not being prepared to give a water bottle and a tract. Today was different, the man realized the light was about to turn green and headed back toward his starting point but as he walked his shoulders drooped and he let the sign drop. The cardboard floated into the lane and lay there in a defeated white flag “I surrender,” sort of way. He grabbed a large broken-in duffle bag and hoisted it upon his tired shoulders giving up in defeat but determined to move on.

In ministry, we can be going through the motions and attempting to shimmy up a response from the crowd and after our efforts give little in return, walk away with shoulders drooped, letting our resolve drift to the ground like the tattered cardboard. “I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore,” you may say ready to pack your bags determined to move on.

We’ve been taught since elementary school that formulas equal results. We can trust math formulas to always equal the same amounts each time and gain security for learning more difficult mathematical concepts because each principle can be used and built upon. God’s work is not always the same formula every time. One year a particular method may work to build and reach people, while other years the same formula, if you will, just painfully flops like an untrained swimmer at the diving board. I keep finding myself as a relatively new pastor’s wife in a slowly growing church plant still anxious — if we do this, and tweak this, and rearrange the nursery just right then it will equal what people want and they’ll come and stay. The variables are so different each time and with each person or group that it can be quickly disappointing when ta-dah, “I did the formula!” and you can hear the crickets chirping because it is not working.

The still small voice of God whispers, “It’s not on you, it’s my job. I build and add to the church.”

“Okay, okay. I know… but what should I do in the meantime?” I reply.

“Pray.” He says.

“I can do that. I feel that’s the only recourse I have left anyway.” I say with a sigh.

“Be faithful.” He urges.

“That is difficult. It seems like it would be easier to go somewhere to be used where we’ll see quicker results,” my shoulders are slumped in defeat.

“Did I tell you to move? Did I call you elsewhere to do my work?” He says with raised eyebrows.

“No Lord, this is the place you called us,” I shake my head in acknowledgement of His past calling to our location.

“Then stay put. Don’t run away from the place I’ve called you just because it’s difficult. It will be more difficult if you leave my will,” He warns.

“That sounds a lot like the story of Ebimilech and Naomi. I don’t think I want to leave and return to you with heartbreaks and a bitter spirit.” I back off my runaway thinking.

“Exactly. I will provide everything you need here. Remember, all people have difficulties and trials in life. When you leave my will you add to the sorrows of the regularly planned trials by multiplying them.” His hand comes around my back and pats me on the shoulder.

“I see your point.” I look over in my own white flag “I surrender,” kind of way.

“It’s my work through you, not yours to bear the burden alone. My yoke is easy and the burden is light. If the yoke is hard and the burden is heavy, something… ahem, you… are not trusting me and depending on me to do the work.” He confronts gently but firmly.

“You’re right. Help me, Lord! Guide me to do your work your way. Help me to cast all these cares upon you in exchange for your ways.” I am humbled by His gentleness and resolved to be open-minded about His approach.

“I’m listening, tell me all about it. Then we’ll work on the rest,” He comforts again.

I’m not sure if your heart has those kinds of conversations with God like mine does. Then flashes of scripture are brought to the front of my mind. I Corinthians 3 stands out…

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

God will reward us according to our labour, but the key is we have to do the work with Him. We have a personal rule for our children out in public: Stay beside or behind. This allows me to lead the children if they were to run ahead and not be aware of a danger, for example, a car driving quickly in a parking lot. My warnings to stop may be unheeded if they are out of my voice range or running unaware in their own world. If they are beside or behind me I can look at them, grab their hand, or hold them back at the curb. It also trains for followship, learning to follow someone is important and valuable to learn wisdom. Rather than impulsive excursions of their own whim outside of the protection of their God-given authority they learn to listen and see dangers as we are closer together.

God likes us to walk beside Him in fellowship and behind Him in followship. That’s how I imagine Adam and Eve walking with God in the Garden of Eden, together side-by-side in joyful conversation. When we run ahead of God’s timing and timetable we can set ourselves up for heart dangers of unrealistic expectations from God that are never realized. He was planning us to follow Him elsewhere but we were not close enough to know or behind Him to see where He was going.

The final thoughts I have for those like me are this: If you’re ahead of God and straining to drag Him everywhere you want to go in the timetable you have formulated and it’s not working, then, why not try to work as a labourer with Him? Allow Him to give the increase in His time. His timing is everything. His increase is greater. His yoke lighter. His burden appropriate to the task He is really wanting us to accomplish. May you give Him your dedicated followship and unnecessary burdens and see what He can do with you and through you.

Tell Them His Name Again

 

Tell Them His Name Again

♪♫♪♫ “Tell me His name again, and sing me that sweet refrain. He who in love, came down from above to die on the cross in shame. That story my heart has stirred, it’s the sweetest that ever was heard. It banishes fear, brings hope and good cheer, O tell me His name again!” ♪♫♪♫

This song really sparks a joy in my heart as we have sung this song in our car to the Sounds of Faith Tell Me His Name CD on road trips. It has an upbeat tune and then the words are the kind that stick like jelly to your fingers and run through your mind all day. It is the sweetest story that’s ever been heard.

There is a story that goes along with the song, I’ve heard two different versions of it and I’m not sure which one is true. The story goes like this… a missionary spoke the name of Christ to a person in their foreign land and they had never heard the name of Jesus before. They proceeded to tell them of Christ and His life, death, and resurrection. Then the woman traveled back to the missionary and asked him to tell her of the name of Jesus one more time.

There have been many times in my lifetime that God prompted my heart to write someone a letter and tell them of salvation and Christ. Sometimes I pray for those people as God brings them to mind, that something in their life would remind them of that letter or they would find it and believe on Him. I’ve many lettersbut the best ones are those I know God was prompting me to do to sow seeds of truth in the hearts of friends and family members. I couldn’t save them, but I could do my part to share what I knew and believed.

Many years ago God prompted me to write a distant family member and send them a specific gospel book that would tell them about salvation. I delayed, allowing being busy to be my excuse to put it off. A gnawing reminder would occasionally speak to me as I went about my business. Months went by and I still kept pushing it off. As you may have guessed I waited too late, as my family member had suddenly passed away in his sleep.

I think my heart was torn from my chest and I felt the burden of guilt, that maybe I would have sent the book he could have read that would have given him another chance to choose Christ.

But I delayed.

The opportunity was over.

I remember standing in an evening church service speaking my testimony crying in tears encouraging people that if they had someone on their mind, they should try to speak to them or send them a letter or a book too. That’s what I’m doing in my own way to those who read this. Does God keep speaking to you about anyone in particular? Please tell them…

Other names come to my mind, always specific people in high school. Neighbors. Family members. Their salvation has never stopped being a part of my prayers, I may forget for a while, but they always return to my mind. I know I’m not in their daily lives, but I pray for them to remember our conversations. I also pray God would bring another Christian into their lives that would have the boldness to speak up and witness to them. That somehow the Holy Spirit would water the seeds and help them to see Jesus for who He is as the Saviour.

A bad thing did happen once, as I sent a book to my ex-brother-in-law as we had prayed for him for many years. I just felt bound by my conscience to try and see if he might be open to reading it because he was in a place in his life where he might take the time to read it. Maybe he would take the time to consider Christ, it was a long shot. I later heard that he was angry about it and threw the book at my sister out in the front yard on one of her next visits to pick up their kids. I felt bad for her, because I never meant to be the cause of her being yelled at by her ex. Some people will just plain reject God and His Word no matter what you do.

I wonder sometimes if when God confronts the lost about the people He sent to speak to them if they will remember the time they yelled, fought with, rejected, and ridiculed the witness. My heart shutters for them as it will be too late.

Late last year I felt prompted to write some letters to some special people in my life. I did not know about their spiritual relationship with God. The reply to one of them was a sweet assurance of their salvation. They had accepted Christ and as a teenager been very involved in church camps and did bring their children up in church. They thanked me for writing them. It was a special blessing to my heart to know that my loved one did know Christ and had peace about their eternal life. I believe taking the risk sweetened our relationship.

I’ve been asking myself as the current events seem to be rocking back and forth in uncertainty if I need to send out more books or write any letters to people I know do not know Christ. It can be a scary proposition when the fate of someone’s eternal life could hang in the balance. My response to the Holy Spirit’s prompting is necessary to win souls. I only wish I had been more fervent in years’ past. I only hope I will have the boldness to do it and not just write about it.

What if I didn’t say anything or delayed like I did in the past?

What if I pursued worldly entertainment or used all my time during this break to create a bunch of extraneous crafts or scrolled through the news articles for hours?

I challenge myself to let go of the temporary and invest in the eternal. Take the bushel of isolation off and reach out to someone as the light shining into a dark world (Luke 11:33).  Not necessarily in person, but however I can within the means I can do it respecting social distancing guidelines, telling them His name again.

Tell His name again to the same people you’ve spoken to in love again. Send them a link, a letter, a text, give them a call as it seems the days are growing shorter. Every day is nearer to Christ’s return. Please reach out to those you love one more time. Reach out to those you don’t love but know need Jesus one more time. You never know what the eternal outcome may be.

May you all be abounding in the work of the Lord until He comes!

I Corinthians 15: 57,58 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

 

Don’t Cuss A Little

One of my biggest regrets was allowing myself to incorporate bad language into my life in my late elementary years in public school. I remember a specific day when another student in my class said “You cuss? I thought you were a Christian.” The Holy Spirit smote my heart right then and there but unfortunately I would go through times when I would do well at cleaning up my mouth and other times when I did not throughout high school. I have worked years cleaning up my mouth but there are still some words that slip out especially when in shocking stressful situations. It’s not okay, and I’ve had to apologize more times than I can count. I don’t want to take bad words lightly like it’s no big deal when my kids hear them come out. I want them to know that the best thing they can do is not learn to cuss and say bad words. It’s uncomfortable to be the bad example.

I was recently disappointed in a Christian I follow online as she prided herself that she was the type of Christian who cusses a little and that if you didn’t like it then “peace.” She was fine with losing followers who might not like that. That kind of hurt my heart because I have admired and shared many of her posts. It sparked my thinking, I want to be a deeper Christian than that — I want to be motivated to be sharpened by the people I follow to be more holy, to be better than my old man, to love Jesus enough to eradicate the nonsense and not have the idle words in my vocabulary when I stub my toe or someone slams the brakes in traffic ahead of me. I don’t want to be a Christian who loves Jesus and cusses a little.

Challenge yourself if you are a lady who struggles with bad language to change your heart and your habits so you can be pleasing to God and others. It’s not all about people pleasing, when we say that our words should be pleasing to others. It’s that cussing and inappropriate conversations are offensive on many different levels. We know that what comes out of the mouth is an indicator of what is in the heart (Luke 6:45). That’s why heart maintenance is important and we must clean, clean, clean, the heart so that out of your mouth come the good and acceptable things that please the Lord. This is an area we can see victory. 

I know, I’m not a shining example of this yet, but I pray that as time goes on those temptations will become less and less and someday I’ll look back and notice that it’s been years since a bad word even came into my mind, much less my lips.