A General Update – December 2013

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Christmas Dinner 2013

Blog’s been quiet…a lot’s been happening…Christmas trip to visit loved ones, a couple of good old-fashioned flu bugs, holiday festivities, a trip to SeaWorld, and life in general. The break has been a very special time to share extra time together and catch up with friends and family! A few updates…

Follow-Up On My Good Intentions

I know you’re all on pins and needles to see if I followed through with my good intentions. ;) I scaled back my unrealistic plans and took small plates of brownies and chocolate to ten neighbors, along with a Christmas gospel message. It wasn’t as grand as I’d originally planned, but I love that even in a very simple gesture, God is sovereign and His truth is what changes hearts, not my presentation.

How Christmas Dinner Went Down

Remember my Christmas menu plans? I miraculously followed through on almost all of them. But due to our plane being canceled without warning and arriving home Christmas Eve Day at 6:00 PM instead of 10:30 AM, we didn’t have a nice supper that night, or the bacon with breakfast. The cinnamon rolls and all of Christmas dinner, however, still happened. The virgin orange strawberry mimosas were a hit; I’ll definitely be making those again! So easy, fresh, and tasty. Hooray!

A Short Break From Blogging

In keeping with my blog commitments, I am taking January off from blogging to work on getting myself back on track with consistent quiet times. This was an area of failure for me over Christmas break, with my Bible study ending until mid January and no plan in place for a replacement. I’m hoping to get an accountability partner here to help me stay consistent and I figured a 31-day blogging respite would help while I hopefully grow more disciplined. If you think of praying for me in this area, that would be wonderful! Because a dormant blog tends to attract spammers and deter readers, I have pre-written a few posts that are scheduled to automatically post over the next several weeks.

Happy New Year!

When I’m back in February, I’ll hopefully blog some of my goals, etc. for the new year and maybe some reflections on 2013. It was a wonderful, hard, good 365 days. God’s love, care, and grace were so evident in big and small ways and I am praising Him for another year of life and breath here on earth. Happy New Year, friends!

Good Intentions: Reaching Out During the Holidays

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I’m a girl of a million good intentions. It’s said that “it’s the thought that counts.” That’s partially true. But what if I thought of offering to help my new neighbor move in, but never did? That thought was lovely while it dwelt in my apartment, but it didn’t do much good staying there.

I’m writing this post for two reasons.

  1. As a sort of accountability for myself and extra motivation to follow through with good intentions I have for reaching out this holiday season.
  2. To encourage you to consider doing something similar for your neighbors or others.

We live in a low-income area, in a fairly trashy apartment complex. I say “fairly” because “trashy” is oh, so relative. There are much worse places to live in LA, but there are also much better ones. Our complex houses very few Caucasians and lots of smokers, broken families, single moms, and at least one pot addict who, apparently, hangs out in close proximity to our bedroom window. All these ingredients combine into one perfect recipe for an awesome evangelistic opportunity, right down the hall.

Over the summer, I had a few opportunities to connect with neighbors at the pool, a popular hangout spot on hot afternoons. I shared the gospel with one and followed up with a home cooked meal for her a few days later. And my evangelistic efforts ended there. That was September. It’s now midway through November and I’ve done little more than smile and say “hello” to smokers on my way to the laundry room. I’m ashamed and convicted. So I’m going to use Christmas as an excuse to knock on my neighbors’ doors.

My plan is to make a bunch of Christmas cookies (hopefully with my Christian sem wife neighbor, Masha) and distribute them along with a solid tract and an invitation to our church, which is conveniently only a mile away from where all these people live. I’ll post after the Christmas season about whether or not I followed through with this. (That’s the accountability part.)

How about you? Do you know unbelievers who might be easier reached over the holidays? It’s a rather sad, empty time for many, especially those with rough relationships or broken families. Consider how you might use a little Christmas cheer as a tool in sharing the hope and salvation found only in Jesus Christ.

I know it seems a little early, but these things take forethought or they’re often never more than good intentions.

Unexpected Loss: The Gravity of Evangelism

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We have this retired next door neighbor named Debbie.

She’s from New Orleans and is in her sixties. She always wears crocks, jeans that are about three inches high-water, the same ratty blue pullover sweatshirt, and often, a large blue bathrobe. Recently, she got her mop of curly hair chopped off in a short buzz. Her normal speaking voice is a shout, so when you visit with her, the whole block can hear her side of the conversation.

We first started to get to know Debbie last fall.

We would visit with her on our way back from the mailboxes or as we left the house. I invited her to the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, and she seriously considered coming, but in the end, decided not to because she knew how “different” her wardrobe is from most. But on Resurrection Sunday, she was sitting in church with us. Gradually an acquaintance has blossomed into what we think is for Debbie, her closest friendship. She’s started ringing the doorbell just to visit multiple times a week and sometimes more than once in a day. She is trying to sell her house and move back to New Orleans, but nothing is going right for her. Most of our “conversations” are Andrew or I listening to her complain. “I don’t got nobody,” she often says.

Andrew and I were both able to share the gospel with Debbie on separate occasions.

The last time, I sent her home with a New Testament and encouraged her to read it. But her frequent visits are sometimes annoying, especially since we work from home, and it usually means (for me) pausing my timer for 15-30 minutes in the middle of the day and chatting. Andrew noticed that she only comes when the blinds are open, so I have started working with the blinds closed some days to avoid the distraction.

Yesterday, it dawned on Andrew and I that we hadn’t seen Debbie over the last week, which is very unusual. Last night around 11:30 PM, we noticed two police officers walking in and out of her house. We got really concerned. Was she doing drugs? Had she died? Finally, Andrew walked over and asked the officers if everything was okay, mentioning that we hadn’t seen Debbie for a few days. “Everything’s fine, there’s no threat,” he responded. “She actually passed away.”

Over the next hour, we waited in shock as a coroner arrived with a body bag and gurney, and Debbie left the house next door for the last time.

I cried and cried and cried.

I had no idea I cared that much about this homely woman from the south. All I could think was, I should have kept the blinds open more. I should have been a better friend. Besides a niece in New Orleans, Debbie didn’t have any family that I know of. She had no job and no church. I could have loved her better. I shouldn’t have let her visits annoy me. I didn’t have to close the blinds as often as I did.

You never know.

I’ve often maintained that we should all be quick to share the gospel in our relationships, and not just rely on “friendship evangelism” to save our acquaintances, because you never know when it will be their last day. Here’s my first real example of that truth. We couldn’t be more relieved and thankful that God gave us both opportunities to witness to Debbie. We are confident that she died knowing what it meant to be saved. Perhaps God rescued her in her last days…we’ll never know.

I guess the moral of this heartbreaking story is, seize chances to share Jesus with the people around you, and love them like He does.  Love them in your actions and in your prayers. Love them so much that you don’t have any regrets if they pass away. I have regrets with Debbie. But thank the Lord one of them is not a failure to share the Good News with her.

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?  For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Cor. 2:14-17)

What Are You Burning With?

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“The world needs to see Christians burning, not with self-righteous fury at the sliding morals in our country, but with passion for God.” (Kevin DeYoung)

It is easy to become more upset and vocal about the moral decline of our country than about each individual’s desperate need for a Savior. It cannot be denied that the direction our nation is headed in is nothing short of terrifying, and we should be prayerful and in tune with what is happening. But at the end of the day, what really matters is where each person stands with God, not whether they were allowed to bear arms or homeschool their children. This world is going to burn, but the souls of men will spend eternity in one of two places.

Unbelievers don’t need to see more conservative Christians expending their energy protesting the decisions our authorities are making. They need to see individuals who are living their lives sold-out for Jesus and are bubbling over in their love for Him and His Word. Changing a person’s political views may positively affect the quality of life here in America, but will do absolutely nothing for them on the day of judgement.

Are you quicker to post on Facebook about gun control than about Jesus Christ? Will you jump into a conversation about homosexual marriage before you’ll share the gospel? Do you proudly honor veterans but fail to publicly  acknowledge God? Are you willing to offend people over your views of the government, but worried about putting them off by talking about the Lord?

What we think about laws and justice is very important, but, like all of life, needs to flow out of and be secondary to our passion for Jesus and His gospel. The state of our country matters greatly, but it pales when compared with the eternal significance of Christ on the cross.

What primary passion are you burning with? Think about it.

An Opportunity to Stand Up for Life

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Abortion is very real and it is very terrible. I am not as appalled by this travesty as I should be. Unborn lives are being murdered right here in our country every single day and I do precious little to fight it. My familiarity with abortion’s long-time legality has created a callous.

The staff and volunteers at the Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic have taken biblical action on the horror they feel toward abortion. Since at this time I am not personally involved in fighting it hands-on, supporting the clinic’s efforts financially and prayerfully is a great, effective way to stand up for the unborn.

The thing I love most about the people at this clinic is their strong emphasis on the gospel in the lives of the women who visit for ultrasounds, counseling, and classes. While they are giving many babies a chance to experience life outside the womb, they recognize that the ultimate issue for every human being is where they stand with God. With that in mind, they faithfully present the good news of Jesus to the ladies who come for help. Physical lives are being saved, but even more importantly, spiritual rebirth is happening as the Holy Spirit works through the gospel.

Because of their biblical perspective and the way Jesus’ love spills out of them to the people they minister to, I am wholeheartedly behind the work that the clinic is doing here in our county. Their annual fundraiser run/walk is coming up on May 18, and unfortunately I have plans that cannot be changed. However, I know a number of wonderful people who are walking or running for the clinic. Please consider sponsoring one of them…all of the proceeds go toward funding the vital ministry of the clinic. Here are a few of my friends who you can sponsor.

Kelsey & Family
Cindy & Family
Crystal
Roxana/Corina
Annie
Gary
Carolynn

No One in 24 Years

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This weekend, I had to take a 30-minute taxi ride, during which I asked my driver if he thought he was a good person.

When he replied yes, I went over the Ten Commandments with him. If you’re familiar with The Way of the Master approach to sharing the gospel, you know the drill. I got to the good news of Jesus and what He did for us on the cross, making a way for sinners to come to God and be washed of our sin.

The cab driver had plenty of objections to the message and was familiar with it already, having supposedly read the Bible in its entirety three times. From the way he could quote Scripture, I had no reason to doubt the claim.

But here’s what struck me.

“I have been in the United States for 24 years, and you are the first person to ever talk to me about Jesus,” he told me as he dropped me off.

For shame, America. There are far too many believers in our country for it to be excusable that this man could live here for nearly a quarter-century and not hear the name of Jesus from one of His followers.

And lest you think that I share this braggingly, when I spoke with this driver I had just stepped off a four-and-a-half hour flight on which I had a captive audience that I failed to take advantage of. I chicken out far more often than I speak up for Christ, so I am scolding myself as severely as anyone. How often does every one of us pass by people who desperately need God’s truth? I know that this taxi driver is just one of countless people, some perhaps even in our direct circles, who have never heard the gospel message.

If Jesus is really the best thing that’s happened to you, what is keeping you from telling people about it?

When the subject of baseball came up in a three-minute conversation with a fellow traveler this weekend, I had no trouble telling him about my brother’s district title. Why? Because it’s exciting to me, and because there’s nothing embarrassing about bragging on my brother. Yet somehow, although I am deeply appreciative of and excited about my relationship with Christ, I fear man and what he will think if I talk about my faith. Half of me desires to shout it from the rooftops, the other half shrinks back in shame, not wanting to be labeled awkward, arrogant, or wacky. Such a mild form of persecution (really, it’s little more than social discomfort) is nothing in light of how Jesus suffered to save me.

When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and talked to someone, stranger or friend, about what the Lord has done for you and can do for them? Could those who know you say you’ve shared Jesus with them? Do you make spreading the gospel a priority in your life? We’re all instructed to do so, but we sometimes go months, even years, without following this fundamental command. Ask the Lord to give you the courage to stand for Him and spread His love to the lost around you.

“So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Rom. 1:15-17)

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

Photo From AsiaNews.it

Photo From AsiaNews.it

I have decided to follow Jesus.

It’s a popular phrase. We sing it in church and Sunday School. It’s easy to say and it sounds really good. In the right circles, it’s popular.

Tonight I watched a documentary about Hinduism in India. In parts of that country, Christians are often murdered for conversion. At a secret baptism service along a river, Indian believers sang I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. The weight of those words within such a context pierced my soul with a sharp blade of conviction. For believers in India, deciding to follow Jesus literally means putting their safety, comfort, and even their lives on the line. The very words “I have decided to follow Jesus” mean earth-shattering changes for those who sing them. For Indian converts, following Jesus is a radical step that is only worth taking if He really means everything to them. 

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:35b)

Is there any cost involved?

Circle the globe back to the Pacific Northwest and my comfortable home. I have decided to follow Jesus. (By the way, I decided this because He’d chosen me first…but that’s a thought for another post.) So what does my life look like in light of that step of faith? How do my actions and lifestyle reflect a soul that is sold out for Christ? Is there any cost involved in my desire to walk with God? What sacrifices am I making, or willing to make, for the sake of the Savior? Would the faith within me hold up under the pressure of real persecution? Would I have the courage to sing I Have Decided to Follow Jesus along the secluded bank of a murky river in India? How much does Jesus mean to me, really?

I am far too complacent.

I know that the Spirit of God is alive and working in my heart; there is proof all over of His hand, and for the evidence of His grace in me, I am deeply grateful. But I also know that I am far too complacent in my walk with Him. So I shared Jesus at the mall two weeks ago and probably will again in four months. Whoopty doo. Across the ocean, there are believers watching their family members be murdered because they are unashamed of the gospel. Now that’s sacrifice.

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

They risk their very lives to tell others the Good News.

Indian churches are packed with saints who will sit for hours pouring over the Word of God and worshiping him together, because Jesus Christ and the fellowship they share through Him are all they’ve got. Here, I cop an attitude about attending evening service because I already spent the morning at church. There, believers desperately ransack their Bibles every chance they get for strength, comfort, and God’s promises. Here, I prioritize a movie or emails over one-on-one time with my Savior. There, Christians risk their very lives to tell others the Good News. Here, I dodge conversations about the gospel for fear of creating an “awkward” situation.

Cheap, lackadaisical Christianity is far too easy to slip into in North America, and I for one am determined to fight it with all I’ve got in the power of the Holy Spirit. If someone looks my way, it should be obvious in my behavior and lifestyle that I am 100% committed to Jesus Christ.

Father, help me to take seriously the decision to follow You. Let me be sold out for You, willing and eager to put all on the line for Your glory.  Help my heart to fight the tendency to grow complacent in my passion for You. Keep my soul on fire for You, and make me a faithful beacon of light in the darkness around me.

How does your daily life reflect a heart that follows Jesus?

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galations 2:20)