A Sacrifice of Praise [Day 12: PRAISE]

I sat in Ama’s home with a lovely group of women made up of Americans and nationals too. We had paid our dear widow of our church a visit with the hope of being a blessing to her. But I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we were all blessed that day. She made us black tea, and we conversed with her dogs to make her smile. One of the girls of the group shared later that a cockroach crawled between her feet. We thanked her for *impressively* remaining calm and not taking away from the sweet vibes shared between sisters in Christ sipping tea and enjoying the company of one another.

As the conversation died down, Ama showed us her beloved Bible — never mind that she can’t read — and sadly shared with us that a rat had eaten through some of its pages. She then pulled out her solar powered audio Bible and began playing in Genesis 1:1. She closed her eyes and smiled. She listened intently as if it was the first time she had pressed play on this device.

When she opened her eyes she said, “I love the Bible. It’s sweeter than honey to me.” I translated these words for our visiting friends, and the elders in the bunch got collectively teary-eyed. She began praising God and sharing with us how good He is. Even though she knew there was not one unbeliever in the bunch, she got her Gospel on in a big way!

Photo by Kelly Rockhold Photography

I was encouraged by Kate Motaung’s post today to change my vocabulary to regularly praise God for everything He is and every gift He gives. And I was encouraged by Ama that no matter how little I have or how small my life may seem on the grand scale of things, I can praise God big. I can offer a sacrifice of praise.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Hebrews 13:15-16

It has been said that praise is the consummation of joy. When I’m truly enjoying God and relishing His gifts, praise is the expression of that fulness I find only in HIm. He is well pleased, and His name is glorified when I offer it back to Him. May my heart always be the kind that rejoices in the Lord and my mouth always be spewing sacrifices of praise.

I “make” God big in my life when I praise Him in times of victory and defeat, great joy and great sorrow. I “make” Him big when I enjoy Him and let Him (and everyone else around me) know it. 

What can you praise God for today?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

Simple Stories for His Glory [Day 1: STORY]

My brother just returned to America after a one-week stay in Kathmandu. Whenever anyone visits, I find it so amusing to be able to see “my” world through fresh eyes. When I would stress about what we were going to do for the day, he would reassure me that it was all fascinating to him. He wanted to walk around and do life the way we would normally to do it to get a glimpse of how we usually went about our days in this foreign city. We visited my markets, my gym, hosted guests, attended church and walked my son to school and participated in our daughter’s cultural program. It was all so ordinary, a far cry from a typical tourist trip. But he soaked up every moment, and I vicariously did the same.

Photo by Dustin Smith

In regards to my writing, I’ve been challenged to share more stories of my life overseas and our ministry here. While it all seems so small and ordinary to me, I believe sharing how God works even in the smallness of my life may be an encouragement to someone else underwhelmed by the significance of their own existence. Certainly, God works in big ways around the world, but He also shows Himself mighty in ordinary life in ordinary places using — you guessed it — ordinary people.

So, I’m going to show up for the next 30 days to share with you how God weaves significance into the smallness of my life, and how He uses our imperfect family to shine Gospel truth into dark places. Walking through local markets, circled up with our faithful church members, or just goofing around the house with our kids, I’m thrilled to share with you how God is teaching me to make Him big in the smallness of my life and encourage you in your efforts to do the same.

I “make” God big when I share stories of how He works mightily even in the smallness of my little life. 

How has God shown Himself big in your life?

Talk to me in the comment section below!

 

To Rejoice is Greater than to Rush

Five Minute Friday: RUSH

When will the kids grow up? When is our ministry going to take off? When are we going to get to go out on a date together again?  These thoughts come in waves as I rush from one event to the next always wishing the next more comfortable phase would usher itself in while I’m scrambling to catch up to the chaos of the one that came before. I want the fruits of my labors like yesterday, and I really wish we could just get a hurry up on this harvest we’re waiting for. Oh, and when is it okay to rest? Here I am again waiting, wishing, and whining.

Photo by Kelly Rockhold Photography

In this rush which seems far too routine to me, I wonder what I am missing. I don’t have to search long to find my answer.

Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

It really couldn’t be more clear than that. While the present may not be savory, it can be sanctifying. I can daily find reason to rejoice rather than rush to the next better thing. The King of the Universe reigns also over my days. I fail never to have the opportunity to commune with him as friend with friend. And I happen to believe that this encouragement to give thanks in every thing is good advice for today, tomorrow and this season and the next one. Actually, forever because I’m told it’s God’s will concerning me, and I know He won’t change His mind on that matter. I want to see what this looks like in daily practice. Do you?

 

A Personal Pep-Talk from the Pages of my Journal

I had to give myself a pep-talk yesterday. In a matter of days, I had gone from a moment of great victory to the depths of defeat — but only in my mind. I was certain that I had no one who cared for me and no purpose in my life in this country. Saying it now, it feels so silly.

Tears stung my eyes as I walked home from dropping my son off at pre-school. I already feel like the crazy foreigner when I’m not balling my eyes out while walking down the road, so I tried to keep my composure until I reached my gate.  I retreated to my room with my Bible, notebook, and pen. I picked up where I left off in Philippians, and I came to chapter 4. I’ve read it countless times, but I knew I needed its truth in a new way. I paraphrased it into a motivational speech for myself.

I imagine I’m not the only one who needs to hear it today, so I share it with you now — prayerfully, as it feels so raw and personal. I trust this vulnerability is not in vain, and this message will reach someone who will benefit from it today.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

First of all, God grabbed me with this — God is all about granting me His peace, but I have a part in maintaining it with prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. I have to hold onto Him with all I’ve got when the darkness creeps in and the enemy claims territory in my mind. My focus must remain on Christ as I trust Him to transform my thinking.

I ask Him to change things according to His will, but first I ask Him to change me. In order to facilitate this change, I must order my thoughts according to the truths of Scripture. Guidance for this step of this transformative process comes in the next verse:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


6 Things to Think about when I Need God’s Peace

When I need God’s peace, I think on things that are…
True

Think about God (duh!). Think on the precious truths of His Word which say you are loved and accepted in spite of you. Your God is good and loves you perfectly. Absolutely nothing changes that.

Honest

Think about the brevity of life in a way that frees you from bondage to the present. Live in light of eternity, saying “no” to the things that feed your flesh and “yes” to the things that build the kingdom of God.

Just

Think of your holy, perfect God and how He empowers you to be like Him on a small scale. Surely, this is an enormous gift. Steward it by striving to be like Him in every way you can.

Pure

Think of how you have been made pure, and live like the righteous being you have been made to be. Refuse to let the world mar our muddy your re-made reputation.

Lovely

Think always on Jesus and on His sacrifice at Calvary. Dwell on the precious gifts He gives each day.

Good Report

Think about what’s good about this day and this moment. Choose to see it in every situation and believe the best about others. 

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

Finally…

Do what you know to do and leave the rest in the capable hands of Christ. Let His peace rule in your heart and dictate your steps. Change your stinking thinking and be conformed to the image of Christ. It’s all good.


And that was it. Simple enough but stirring, too. It wasn’t an immediate fix but rather a goal for which I must keep striving. The tears continued to fall, and I cried out to the Lord who knows and understands my heart better than I do. I asked Him to change things, but even more, I asked Him to change me.

Today, I am running my thoughts through the Scriptural filter of Philippians 4 and recognizing these unwelcome words for what they are — lies. Today, I am certain I am cared for, and my purpose is renewed.

All thanks to a little pep-talk I didn’t want to hear but knew I needed. Sure beats a pity-party.

 

Emotional Highs and Lows of Church Planting

Sometimes it all feels like a little too much. One week, we are riding the high of a baptism and high attendance. The next week, not one of our faithfuls are there, and we are wondering what we did to scare them all off. To say church planting is an emotional roller coaster is an understatement. Unless, maybe, we’re comparing it to the recurring dream I have where I’m riding the Vortex at Kings Island Amusement Park, and my restraint won’t stay down leaving me tethered only by my frail arms to this life I’d like to keep living. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

I have written before about the burden church planters carry being a heavy one. Undoubtedly, the dream of a church planting family is to see souls saved, lives changed, and men and women called into the ministry. When I get a taste of this sweet success followed closely by bitter disappointment,  it’s tempting to stop trying all together. To say to my family, “Pack it up, guys, we’re going home!” Because it’s so stinking easy to jump right from a joyous peak to the depths of despair when I am looking only at the present situations at hand.

Philippians 4:6-7 provides some advice for handling these moments before I take that plunge…

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

It has been said by some that the Bible is just a collection of ‘Dos and Do Nots.’ In the case of this excerpt of scriptural wisdom, that is true. I, for one, am grateful for this guide printed in plain terms for me. Certainly, it’s for my benefit.

DO NOT be anxious.
DO be thankful for what He has done.
DO ask God for more.
DO trust Him to do the rest.

 

I wish the rest meant this whole country receiving the Gospel. However, the rest is a Christ-centered, God given perspective that mirrors more of His heart than my vain ambitions and gets me off this crazy train of emotions. To me, this seems potentially more challenging than evangelizing a nation because my emotions tend to run the show. The possibility passes my understanding, but it’s true that Christ wants to give me peace as I follow Him. Rather than being an unwilling passenger, I can be an active participant in the continual renewing of my mind that leads to that peaceful place where Jesus works, and I just stand in awe of Him. Everything beyond that is just bonus.

What kind of emotional ups and downs are you riding today?

Share with me in the comment section below how God is working in your life.