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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Though I'm Weak, You Make Me Strong

God Loves Us Weak people.

Good. That gives me hope.

God has never been impressed with strength or self-sufficiency. In fact, the Bible shows God often uses people who are weak to accomplish His tasks.

WOW! Could there be a plan for me?

I took a peek at Chapter 35 of The Purpose Driven Life. I was excited! Rick Warren says the Bible is filled with examples of how God loves to use imperfect, ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Handicapped? Untalented? Shy? Sick? Tired? God can use YOU. Here's how:

1. Admit your weaknesses. God is less concerned about your accomplishments than your honesty.

If you read 2 Corin 4:7-9, you will see God wants us to be "cracked pots."
When we're "cracked pots" people can tell -- God is the source of our accomplishments -- not us!

2. Be content with your weakness. So - I'm short (I'm getting personal here) -- No, I won't ever be a runway model (besides not looking that great!) BUT, -- kids like me. I'm near their height. What ministry opportunities await!

Weaknesses prevent arrogance. God does not need arrogant servants...hmmm... the two words don't even GO together!

Weaknesses make us more approachable. Who wants to hang with perfect people????? How intimidating is that?

The great missionary Hudson Taylor said "All God's giants were weak people"

Here are some examples:

Moses was afraid to talk. - God made him the instrument to bring the 10 commandments to the people and lead them from captivity.

Gideon had low self esteem. God made him a warrior.

John was arrogant. God made him the apostle of Love.

Paul was impatient. God made him a leader and writer of most of the New Testament.

God turned impetuous Peter into the ROCK!

Who are we to question our abilities?

Give your weakness to God. He'll put it to good use!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Long Journey Home

Last week I told of how God gets us through trouble. Little did I know what this week would bring.

It’s just an old building. It practically sits right on State Street, directly opposite Burgard’s Tavern.

You pass it every day. When the leaves are off the trees, you may have noticed the banner stretched across the side: “Jesus Saves.”

I was thinking today that a footnote on the banner should read: “Jesus loves you and we, do, too.”

Faith Baptist Church has owned the ramshackle brick building for years. We always called the building “The Annex.”

That name changed to “The Mission House” a few years ago when church members plunged into a rehab project of miraculous proportion. After months of repairing, painting and wallpapering, the building became a home for missionaries who visit during breaks from their overseas work.

People seldom consider the sacrifice of missionary families. They often sell everything to go far away to serve God. They uproot their families and totally trust God with their journey.

Many missionary families have no home or car when they return for visits. That’s why Faith Baptist created a home for them.

Mike and Wendy Young and their children are a missionary family Faith has served. They have worked with the people of the Czech Republic for many years.

Last Friday, Mike got the devastating news that his brother was killed in a boating accident on Baldwin Lake. He and his family would have to make the long journey home.

Last Friday,  Faith plunged into action. We had just said goodbye to other visitors to the Mission House. The home was scheduled for about a month of extensive cleaning and repair.

We only had 24 hours.  We had 24 hours to transform the Mission House and make it fresh for the weary, saddened visitors, the Young Family.

By 5 p.m. Friday evening, Faith Baptist Church members showed up with supplies of cleanser, buckets, mops and shop vacs. They worked til ten p.m. and again the next day, making the home welcoming and nice for the Youngs.

Trouble had again visited our homes, but, in one way, God had again worked it for good. Our fellowship in the Mission House over cleanser and vacuum hum was sweeter than any worship service.

Bible verses, welcome signs, cards, food and scrubbed floors greeted the grieving travelers who had made a long journey home.

We fervently ask God to wrap the whole Young family in His loving arms. We thank Him that, while we all grieve, He will “work all things for good”...even in a long journey home.

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

Friday, March 25, 2011

You Were Shaped For Serving God

I just got a call from Deb.

She told me Kim's mom called. Kim needs to hurry back to Wisconsin. Her dad is not doing well. Kim's family must pack to leave.

"Pray for her, OK?" Deb asked. "Let the others know."

OK, Deb.

I hang up my cell and speed dial Kim.

"What can I do to help you, Kim?"

"I'm OK, Deb's here cooking."

I'm not surprised. Deb is a master at service. She reminds me of Chapter 33 of The Purpose Driven Life.

"We serve God by serving others," the first line of the chapter says. Of's obvious.

I'm on the phone to Kim. Deb is in her kitchen cookin up supper. What a gal!

Real servants do what's needed, even when it's inconvenient. Good job Deb!

We miss many occasions for serving because we lack sensitivity and spontaneity. There we go -- I'm overbooked. Hmmmmm I've got a lot to learn about servanthood from Deb.

I love what Rick Warren says about service in this chapter. He says, basically, (forgive my paraphrase) Service does not have to be perfect to be pleasing.

Service can be sloppy.

Yikes! That scares this "Type A" person!

"The truth is," Rick Warren notes, " everything we do is done poorly when we first start doing it. That's how we learn."

So, I'm thinking everything does not have to be planned out. That's tough for and OCD Kid :) I'm working on it.

But, back to Deb in the kitchen. Last week she called me to pray over a friend who lost his brother. "We're meeting to pray...come on over."

I didn't make it (sick child) Missed a blessing tho.

We did get together in service, Deb & I. I'll write about that on a later date. Right now, tho, I'm back to learning from Deb...and the Purpose Driven Life (by the way, the book's available from the Faith Family Resource Center -- a good read!)

Real servants do every task with equal dedication. "Whatever work you it with all your heart." My kids learned this sing-song from Kids Bible Study -- It's not a bad Bible verse -- Look it up.

Great opportunities often disguise themselves in small tasks.

Deb was cooking dinner so Kim could pack. It was a divine mission.

I often write about everyday heroes...people who do small things with big consequences. That's the best kind of hero to me.

The most significant service is often the service that is unseen.

I think of the sweet grandmas in my hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. They pray for their after day...year after year. Sometimes, their prayers are answered, sometimes, not. But they continue to serve with prayer.

Don't be discouraged when your service is unnoticed or taken for granted. Keep on serving God!

"Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for Him is a waste of time or effort." -- 1Corin15:58

Even the smallest service is noticed by God and will be rewarded.

"If, as my representatives, you give even a cup of cold water to a little child, you will surely be rewarded." -- Matt 10:42

Thanks, Deb, for the lesson in service.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Growing through Temptation

When I saw the word "Temptation," I figured I was free. I'm just a mid-aged mom. I don't struggle with a whole lot of temptation.

Then I started to read Chapters 26 and 27 from the Purpose Driven Life. Boy,do I have a problem with temptation!

I'm tempted every day. I'm tempted to complain...Tempted to compare...Tempted to be impatient...Tempted to be intolerant...Tempted to talk too much...Tempted to listen too little.

WEW! What am I going to do with all these temptations? Enter: God.

God makes every temptation an opportunity to do good. On the road to spiritual maturity, temptation can be a stepping-stone. With temptation, God provides an opportunity for us to make a choice.

God then gives us the power to make the right choice.

Love, joy, peace patience, kindness goodness and self-control -- These are the fruits of the Spirit. They are gifts we can receive if we tune in to the Savior.

They are also fruits that grow from wrestling with temptation...and winning.

God developes the Fruits of the Spirit by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you're tempted to express the exact opposite quality.

I don't have to go any further than my angry outbursts to see an opposite quality in the making. Yikes!

OK - I'm tempted to yell...but when God helps me CHOOSE not to -- Whamoo! I receive the Fruit of Patience. Thanks, God, this is mighty tasty!

Satan is a master at temptation. He identifies a desire in the desire to be loved, and uses it against you.

Temptation starts in your mind. Circumstances can agravate it, but the mind is the recepticle of the tempter.

How do we overcome temptation? Ignore it! Fix your mind on something else.

The Bible says to "take our thoughts captive" in 2Corin 10:4. A mind focused on the Word of God will not be distracted.

Finally, reveal your struggles to someone, a good Christian friend or a church group. Ask for help. They can pray you up and keep you accountable!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Purpose Driven Life - Day 25 - Coping with Trouble

Our group sat around the table and sniffled. It was hard to know what to say.

When a pain is so deep it pulls the heart tight, a person is often at a loss for words.

Our little group of moms who meet at Faith Baptist once a month for Bible Study were sharing heartache.

Sick mommas and all seemed so overwhelming. We were supposed to study the Bible, but what could God possibly say to us when we seemed surrounded by trouble?

Enter: Chapter 25 of The Purpose Driven Life. We began to read aloud.

"God has a purpose behind every problem."

Jesus warned us that we would have problems in the world:

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33

So...we all must struggle a bit. Our struggles produce some of the most heart-felt prayers we will ever utter.

We learn things about God in the dark depths of despair. We learn He can take our anger. We learn He is there even when we don't feel it.

Most importantly, we learn our suffering has meaning. God is working something out in us or others. Perhaps He is providing the platform on which we will reach people for the rest of our lives.

Suffering, in fact, is a great equalizer. Tears create a pool we will all swim in sooner or later. If you have not cried, you have not earned the right to share.

You'll never know that God is all you need until God is all you've got.

Knowing that God is working something out in you provides great purpose to trouble. Even death takes on meaning.

So many people have used death's heartache to create a legacy.

What will you do with your heartache?

Will you become bitter or better?

Romans 8:28 states:

"And we know that is all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose."

Trouble can be transforming. We need to see what we can do with the shredded pieces of calamity. Perhaps we'll create a work of art.

One thing we will be sure of: We will be forever approachable because we've been broken. People are attracted by shared pain. It opens up incredible opportunities to share Christ.

This weekend has brought the death of two precious teens. I have to admit, I am perplexed. I am sad.

I know those parents, friends and family, feel a pain that runs so deep only God can reach it. And reach it, He will.

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those who are crushed in spirit." -- Psalm 34:18

Trouble will inevitably come to my house.

The visit may be unwelcome, but God grant me the grace to make it meaningful.