Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who Gets "Called"?

If I ever got the chance to meet a famous person, I'd want to get a picture with him or her as fast as I could.  Well, today, I wanted to get a quick picture with Richard.

Maybe he's not a household name.  So Richard Loghry isn't famous.  The reason I want to know people like him is because he makes God famous where he is.  And this Tuesday, he flies to an "unknown" part of the world to take the Gospel to the jungles of Suriname.

Richard is a great example of how God "calls" people to missions.  I first met Richard when I was 18.  We served for 10 weeks at a little camp in Brownsville, KY. 

(Please forgive the fashion.  It is a statement to prove that God works through generations who have no sense of style.)

Richard is from a little town in Arkansas that most people have never heard of and he was serving the Lord long before I met him.  In the summer of 1997, Richard had his first "away from home" missions or ministry experience at Camp Joy.  Since that summer, our paths have crossed numerous times.  I have always been fascinated with the way God works in Richard.  The Holy Spirit is evident in his life.  Wherever Richard is, he works for the kingdom.  He is consistently giving his time, talents, money, gifts, and life to make disciples.  He serves in the little things.  He loves big and gives big hugs.  He knows that the state of Arkansas has never been his home--he lives for the next life.  He knows that he didn't start out as a "good boy" and by the power of the Spirit has overcome significant sin struggles in his life.  Richard builds community whereever he is, and now God will use him to build a group of believers in Suriname--with a people who currently do not know the name of Jesus.

Let Richard encourage you.  When you hear the word "missionary," don't think of some spiritual giant.  Think of a human with a super Person.  That super Person (the Holy Spirit) dwells among all of God's people.  When God calls someone into a relationship with Him, He empowers him or her.  We aren't suppose to accomplish big things "way out there somewhere" until we've obeyed whereever "here" is.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

To Judge or not to Judge

I was having a conversation with a godly man from my church when my oldest daughter was two years old.  My toddler began to throw a fit, so loud and so distracting that I couldn’t hear what the man was saying.  I was embarrassed by my child’s actions, but what came next was mortifying.  This man that I respect began to tell me that I needed to discipline my child.  When I gave my reasons for not doing so at the moment, he proceeded to further instruct me on my strong-willed child and my push-over parenting.  I told him that I did not let my child do whatever she wanted.  His response: “Yes you do.  I’ve watched you at church.”  I gave more excuses, and so this older gentleman brought another woman into the conversation, to share her story, give me further instruction about discipline, and show me the specific “how-to’s”.

I’m not sure how you would react to such a situation.  For me, I was beyond embarrassed.  There was a part of me that never wanted to go to that church again.  I didn’t know how I could ever look that man in the eye.  I was offended and hurt, and I cried a lot.

But there was another part of me that knew he was right.   I began reading what the Bible had to say about discipline and parenting.  I read 15 parenting books in the next two years.  What that man helped me realize is that I had a problem with being in authority over my child.  I parented out of fear.  That conversation is what sparked a life-time of learning and changing for me: I read, I prayed, I instructed my children, I began disciplining my children in a God-honoring way.  While I appreciate all the times other people have encouraged me or complimented me, those comments have not altered the course of my parenting like that conversation seven years ago.  I am forever grateful that he had the courage to be firm with me and to see through all of my excuses.  My children have benefited greatly by the temporary “wound” this man gave me.

That experience motivated me to also be a person who is willing to say the hard things in life. Jesus didn’t say we are never to judge; He actually sets forth the parameters by which are to judge.  Matthew 7:5 “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” John 7:24 “do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

All of us have been hypocrites at one time or another.  We get disgusted by an action or quality in a person and within the same day are guilty of it ourselves.  I happen to admit that I am sometimes a hypocrite.  That’s one of the many reasons I need Jesus and a steady dose of the Bible guiding my life.  But once I have noticed a sin in my own life, I am called to repent (meaning I no longer respond to sin how I used to; the lure is gone.)  Then I can clearly see how to help someone else do the same. Jesus tells us to judge with right judgment.  We are to look beyond what the eye can see and get to the heart of the matter.  There are times I judge wrongly.  There are times I judge rightly and stay silent, which isn’t helpful for anyone.  There are times I make people mad and need to ask for forgiveness, but other times they later thank me.  I am still in process of learning how to carry out this command with faithfulness and wisdom. 

You see, there is a difference between making a judgment and being judgmental.  One is a necessary action, the other a nasty attitude.  It would never be appropriate for me to be judgmental and say “ugh, do you see what you are doing?  You must be a slut.”  It IS appropriate for me to rightfully judge: “girl, do you see what you are doing?  You are bringing glory to yourself (or a specific sin) instead of God.  What you are doing is hindering your relationship with the Lord. ” 

I do not tell someone they are in the wrong because I think I’m better than them; I am not… I just think God’s ways are better than mine and theirs.  I do not want people to live the life that I live; I want them to have the God that I have.  I am not the standard, and so to my dying day I plan on pointing others to the One who is.  I do not point out sin because I think I am so good and awesome.  It is quite the opposite.   I am not good--I know how bad I am.  I have seen the wickedness of my own heart.  I am “prone to wander”.  There have been times in my life that I tasted what the world had to offer.  I found it fun at the moment, but it did not digest well.  Sin now makes me want to vomit.  And so I no longer feed my soul the kind of poison Jesus had to die for. 

There are so many times I think “who am I to say anything?”  Well, I know exactly who I am.  I am the chief of sinners who is no longer a slave to sin.  I am a forgiven child of God.   Struggling with sin is no longer an option in my life because I know how to fight it.  And I am winning.  Jesus won this battle for my heart, and He therefore qualifies me to help fight the sin in others.  God has broken me, showed me who He is, and what I am not.  So when I sense that someone I love is headed toward danger, I no longer waste my time asking “who am I to speak truth?” Instead, I respond like Isaiah: “Here am I…..Lord, send me.”

If you are one of my Christian brothers or sisters who is understandably a little nervous about being labeled intolerant or judgmental, I encourage you to read Galatians 6:1-10.   It is better to gently offend your brethren than allow them to be caught in what unknowingly harms them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mustard-Seed Marriage

In my previous post, Marriage: the Little Things , I talked about the big effect of little differences between my husband and I. It is important that he and I view marriage more positively than negatively. We can view these little things as obstacles in our life or opportunities for our growth. We can criticize each other or celebrate our uniqueness. We can argue about our differences or appreciate them.

My husband helps me travel to the world of possibilities and I help him trod in the land of practicality. That sounds so flowery and awesome, but sometimes the traveling makes me a little motion sick, and at times the trodding is frustrating for him. Thinking positively is true and right, but sometimes, we just can not self-will the happy thoughts. We need a bigger solution.

As I look through Scripture and study Jesus' interaction with people, I notice that He does not diminish the importance of little matters. Instead, Jesus redirects people's thinking. He takes earthly problems and points to heavenly solutions. Jesus seems to think we can learn from the "little things" and so He tells a short story about this tiny thing called a mustard seed.

"[Jesus] put another parable before them, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of air come and make nests in its branches.'"
Matt 13:31-32

This passage isn't about marriage, directly, but about the kingdom. However, the parable applies directly to marriage, because marriage was God's first kingdom-building institution (Gen 2). Marriage is the smallest of all kingdom unions. The purposes of marriage are not solely compatability, happiness, intimacy, or commitment. Man and woman were first joined together in the Garden to work in and for God's kingdom together. And now thousands of generations later, one man and one wife become "one" in a world with billions of people. The Christians plant their tiny marriage in God's huge kingdom, and then they grow. They grow bigger than non-Christian marriages (the garden plants) and extend far beyond themselves because they have the supernatural power of God working behind them.

Why is it important that marriages grow spiritually? So that the marriage is useful. Birds make their nests in the branches of a Christian marriage. Marriage is not just for the two people who started it, but for all the people who find their way to its resting spot. The marriage is to help others build their own homes and further the work of the kingdom.

Marriage is to be like the mustard seed. When the mustard seed has done its job, no one focuses on the seed. The seed is barely recognizable once it has produced so much usefulness. I pray that you will have a mustard-seed marriage: always growing, always pointing heavenward, always benefiting others. I pray that the tree of your marriage will weather dry seasons, stand strong in rain or sunshine, and benefit all the little "birds" long past the life of your little seed.