One of my favorite things about where we live is that we always have a story to tell. We could talk for hours about how God worked in amazing ways. We could tell you of the time God saved me from being launched off of my scooter when I drove over an open manhole. We could tell you how God used a devastating earthquake to open doors for ministry. We could tell you how God saved a man out of Hinduism 6 weeks before his death. We had been sharing the Gospel with him for years. We could go on and on.
I love reading biographies of great men and women of God who the Lord used throughout history. The men and women weren't anything special, but they served an amazing God who changed their lives and them used them in His service.
Psalm 44:1 "We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old."
David loved stories, too. He loved hearing how God worked throughout the history of his people. Generation to generation, the stories were passed down. There were stories of battles like the battle of Jericho. There were stories about God parting waters like the Red Sea. There were stories of manna that fed the people in the wilderness. Oh, how David loved those stories! But David longed for more stories of his own. He loved the story of how God defeated the giant Goliath. He loved the story of the time God helped him kill a lion and bear. They were great stories and they were his own testimonies of God's great power working in his life. But David didn't want those stories to be his last stories. He wanted God to work in his life every day! He didn't want stories about David's greatness. He wanted stories about God working in impossible situations so that God would get all the glory!
Psalm 44:6 "For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me."
Psalm 44:8 "In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah."
Do you have stories of God working in amazing ways? If you aren't faithfully in the battle, your stories will be limited. You will have to keep telling the same story over and over about how God worked 20 years ago. If you want fresh and exciting stories, you will have to quit sitting on the sidelines. People who are in the battle daily will have daily battlefield stories of God's goodness, grace, and glory. People on the sidelines are satisfied with telling other people's stories of how amazing God is. People in the battle daily are encouraged by other people's stories, but they also are zealous about sharing their own stories. They love seeing God work in their lives personally.
I want to be one of those people. I want to be on the battlefield experiencing God doing great things in and through me. I want to be a storyteller with something to say. I want to be able to boast and brag on my God all day long about things He is doing in my life personally.
Have you ever had those moments or days when you feel overwhelmed? There is an uneasiness in your spirit. Loads of decisions and responsibilities weigh upon your shoulders. You are not quite sure how to explain that feeling, but it shows up on your face.
This morning I woke up already tired from a difficult and interrupted night of sleep. Responsibilities weigh upon me. Decisions need to be made soon. The load of ministry, motherhood, and the work in the home is a little overwhelming right now. And all this is compounded by the emotional strain of being away from my oldest child for Christmas for the first time and a beloved dog that looms on the brink of death's door.
I sat down to spend my morning quiet time with the Lord. I prayed and asked, "Lord, please send me something. I need to hear from you this morning."
Psalm 43:5 "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?..."
David knew how to describe that feeling. He gave it a perfect name.
DISQUIETED: Made uneasy or restless; disturbed; harassed.
Yes, my soul is disquieted within me. I am sure you have been there, too. The key is knowing what to do in those situations. Psalm 43 gives a perfect prescription for the ailment.
It's amazing how timely God's Word is. The answers to our problems are all right there if we stay faithful to reading His Word and going to Him in prayer. I already feel the weight of my disquieted soul dissipating. Why? My circumstances have not changed. I am still tired from a frustrating night of sleep. I still have responsibilities hanging over my head. But somehow His Word has refocused me. My vision is no longer focused on the cloud. My eyes are again fixed upon the Son.
When we first moved here, I made a huge mistake.
As we were packing to move overseas, our luggage space was limited. We had to prioritize. I made the decision that we didn't need to bring Christmas decorations. It really didn't seem like a big deal at the time. We have never been overly sentimental. One year we barely did any decorating and we didn't seem to mind. One year we didn't even put up a Christmas tree, and the kids never said a word. So it seemed like a good thing to leave the Christmas decorations in the States. When we arrived in our new country in November, we made a mad dash to get the new house set up. Before we knew it, December was at our doorstep. That's when my mistake glared as bright as tacky Christmas lights. It was Christmas time, and yet nothing looked like Christmas. The people here don't celebrate Christmas so every store looked bare. Every house looked plain. Everything looked like it does every other day of the year. Christmas decor was nowhere to be found and we suddenly felt homesick.
Sometimes you don't realize how much you love something until it isn't there. It sounds silly, but we once endured a cheddar cheese shortage here. It went on for 7 months. People just don't realize how addicted to cheddar cheese Americans are. I am surprised our blood isn't cheddar cheese yellow. Yes, I whined a little. Don't even let me begin telling you about the dill pickle shortage that has been going on for two years. Those things aren't even necessary, just precious to my American taste buds.
My daughter and I love to go running. We have worked up to a 10k. Our next goal is to run a half marathon. Yes, that means she and I are only half crazy. One time we were out running a 10k. It was a hot day, and I had forgotten to bring money with me to grab a bottled water for when we finished our run. At the end of the run, we were panting and parched. The walk home was as excruciating as the 10k run. We sent a text to my husband asking him to meet us at the gate with water. I don't think I have ever been so thirsty! It was foolish and dangerous for us to make such a trip without sufficient means of hydration.
Next door to our home, the neighbors keep a milk cow. They often keep it on a short five foot rope that runs through its nose and ties it to a stake in the small plot of land. Sometimes they even keep it locked up in a metal shed in the heat of the summer. The poor cow must be roasting in that shed! We always know when it becomes unbearable for the cow. It begins to cry loudly for water. It will continue begging and braying for hours until someone satisfies its thirst.
Psalm 42:1 "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?"
Imagine a deer on the run in the heat of the summer. It longs for the safety and the refreshing of the water brooks. As it is being pursued, thirst begins to build. Its mouth becomes dry. Muscles tired and aching, heart pounding, it finally cries out for water.
Do we long for God like that? When it seems He is hiding behind the lattice and we cannot find Him, do we cry out for Him? Do we long for His safety, comfort, and refreshing? He isn't like a cheddar cheese shortage or a pickle shortage. We can survive without those. They are nice to have and we love them, but they can be replaced with other things. He is more than just Christmas decorations that we enjoy and miss when they are gone. He is like water. He is vital to life. He is vital to day-to-day survival. I can live without cheddar for at least 7 months and pickles for 2 years and counting. I would miss them, but I can even live without the homey feel of Christmas decor. But without water, I am doomed. He is necessary for every day and every minute.
Is He precious to me like my Christmas decorations? Do I miss Him when I realize our fellowship is broken because of sin? When He is silent, do I long to hear His voice?
Do I have an appetite for Him like my beautiful, golden cheddar cheese treasure? Do I hunger for the taste of His goodness and for the buffet of His righteousness and holy character and nature?
And do I realize how vital He is? Do I realize how much I need Him every moment? Do I call out for Him? Do I cry for Him?
I love my children's class sweethearts.
Sometimes they are a wild bunch. Sometimes it's a crazy mix of ages and languages. They are often full of smiles and giggles. Sometimes their clothes are ripped. They are often dirty. They don't notice or care. They are just happy to be in children's class, singing "Read Your Bible" and laughing as they mimic growing like a plant.
All of my sweethearts are from families in such poverty that the American mind cannot fathom. Even many of the American homeless are better off than the majority of these families. They work in farming and agriculture and make just enough money to put the cheapest of foods on their plates. Many live in one room shacks right in the middle of the garden that they tend for the land owner. I look in my shoe cabinet and see more than a dozen pairs of shoes. I have warm weather shoes, cold weather shoes, shoes to match black outfits, shoes to match brown outfits, running shoes, biking shoes, aerobics shoes, and bedroom shoes. Most of these people have one pair of shoes: cheap and flimsy flip flops that they wear year round, in cold weather and hot weather and monsoon rains, and in all activities. They work in the fields in them, play soccer in them, walk to church in them, and walk to school in them.
Psalm 41:1 "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."
It's easy to throw money at these situations to try to solve their problems. There is something much more difficult, though.
Would you give hugs and love on them through all the dirt?
Would you let these sweet faces crawl up in your lap even on the days they smell like urine?
Would you play with them and teach them and correct them day after day even when they can do nothing for you in return?
Would you hug the mom even with the threat of lice looming with every physical contact?
Yes, sometimes money does make an impact. Recently a woman sent us a substantial amount of money to minister to the children. She heard about them from 10,000 miles away and her heart was broken. I think she would have let every one of them crawl up in her lap, and she would have snuggled with each one as if they were her own grandchildren, dirt and all! We took the money and bought these precious babies much needed winter clothing. (They had absolutely nothing, and the temperatures were dropping.) The kids were thrilled, and so were the parents who could not properly clothe their own children. Their biggest thrill is that the "rich man" and his "high caste" partner plays with them and loves them. They know there is something special about this because in their culture, rich people and high caste people have nothing to do with poor, low caste people.
When you see the homeless man on the street, do you turn the other way? Is he too vile and dirty for your time and affection? When the drunk bum on the road staggers along through life, do you continue your Christmas shopping without thought of his eternity? Are you focused on your shopping and getting more and more stuff for yourself, your family, and your friends? Are you so busy with the season of giving and cheer that you have no time for ministering to those who have the greatest need? Are you showing them the Saviour? Are you reaching out to them, and especially reaching out to their greatest need, the need of salvation?
God shows great favor to those who consider the poor. After all, that's what He did for us. When we show love and affection for the poor, we demonstrate the character of God to the world around us. It's more than just throwing money at them. It's getting down in the dirt with them and removing the lines that separate us... just like Jesus did. He reached out to us. We were poor and dirty with sin. And yet, He invited us to crawl up in His lap. He didn't just give money to solve our physical problems. He spend time among us meeting the needs of our hearts, souls, and lives.
So what are you doing to show the love and compassion of our Saviour to those who are the lowest in our culture? Are you reaching them with the Gospel?
I love Christmas time. It's a very festive season in our home. I try to put some form of Christmas in every room of the house. Christmas towels, Christmas wreaths, Christmas candles, Christmas pine cones, Christmas blankets and pillows, Christmas bows, and Christmas garland. It's like a Christmas explosion. Decorating for Christmas is something I enjoy and have gotten pretty good at doing. But there is something I struggle doing during the Christmas season. I am terrible at it! Christmas gifts. When Christmas rolls around, it's like I have forgotten everything I ever knew about a person. My mind goes blank. I have no idea what to get them.
My husband, on the other hand, is the most amazing gift giver. He always seems to come up with the perfect gift. It isn't just the gift that he gets that excites me. It's the heart and attitude with which he gets the gift. He gets so excited! He carefully picks out presents based on what he knows about the person. He hunts and hunts until he finds exactly what he is looking for. When he gives the gift, he stands there with a big grin on his face, staring and waiting for the person's reaction. When the person bubbles over with joy, my husband's face lights up like a Christmas tree. You would think he was the one who received the gift!
Psalm 40:6 "Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required."
What does God want? What gift is He looking to receive? When He opens up our gifts to Him, what is He looking for?
Is He looking for an obligatory gift? Is He pleased when we give Him something that we feel we have to give?
What does He want?
Have you ever received a gift that you knew the person only gave it because they felt they had to? It wasn't heartfelt. It was merely given out of a sense of obligation. I have received those kinds of gifts. I have also given them many times. It makes me feel so shallow. And it should!
What makes my husband such a great gift giver?
1) He thinks about the person, who they are, and what matters to them.
When we give to the Lord, we need to do the same thing. What is God like? What matters to Him?
Psalm 40:5 "Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered."
Do we realize how much God thinks about us? Do we realize how much He does for us each and every day? Do we realize what He has already done for us? He dotes on us. He treasures us. He loves us deeply! So what kind of gifts would matter to Him?
2) He gives out of a desire to please the receiver of the gift.
Psalm 40:8 "I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart."
David didn't do things out of obligation. He delighted in pleasing the Lord. It was in his heart! It was his passion and desire. It isn't just the gift that matters. It's the heart with which we give the gift.
What gifts does our God want? What is His desire? He wants us. He wants our hearts. He wants us to delight in Him and in serving Him.
When my husband gives me a gift, I certainly enjoy the gift, but what I enjoy more than anything is seeing the joy and excitement plastered across his face as he gives the gift. His heart is in it because he loves me.
What does our Father in Heaven want? He doesn't want us just to sing. He wants us to wholeheartedly praise Him in song.
Psalm 40:3 "And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD."
He doesn't want us to just sacrifice and give offerings. He wants us to delight in serving Him. He wants to look on our faces and our hearts and see our joy as we give to Him gifts of love, praise, trust, and service.
Do we give Him obligatory gifts? Or are we searching out the perfect gifts to give to Him with joy?