Thursday, February 22, 2018

How God's Holy People Can Impact an Unholy World

Two small words. Only three letters.

Moses asked God, "When the people ask me, 'What is His name?' What should I tell them?"  God replied to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you" (Exodus 3:13-14).


Oh, the power in His name.

These two words, in all caps, hold within them the fullness of God.

In light of the recent school shooting in Florida, where 17 souls moved from this world to the next by a senseless act of evil, I can only respond with this:

As long as we live in this world full of sin, evil will manifest itself through broken people. We cannot always stop a person from doing evil things, but we can illuminate the dark around us by being God's Light and Hope, offering the only cure for their broken hearts - Jesus Christ. 

This world needs to see Hope through those who claim to have Christ in their hearts.

Until we stop ignoring our call to be holy, we will continue to drift through life having no impact on the world around us whatsoever as evil continues to place a stronghold on more and more of our society.

This breaks God's heart!

Recently, I was studying through week five of "Live Like You Belong to God" and noticed I AM stated backwards becomes a question: Am I? So, I began to ask myself some Am I questions:

Am I living the holy life God's redeemed me for and called me to? 
...but as the One who called you is holy, you are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy because I am holy (1 Peter 1: 15-16).

Am I living a distinguishable life from the unholy culture around me? 
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Am I living as a new creation or am I blending in with worldly ways and habits?
For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (Ephesians 5:8).

I AM has never wavered in His character. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. In contrast, we live with the constant tension between our flesh and our spirit. We struggle daily to not waver, but we often do.

Then, how in the world is it possible to live the holy life God has called us to?

It's not. 

But with the power of I AM in us, all He calls us to is possible.

We are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit dwells in us.
For the temple of God is holy and that is what you are (1 Corinthians 3:17). 

The Holy Spirit is working right now in and through Believers to make us holy perfect - perfect in our representation of a holy God. He's chipping away at all that's unholy and shaping what is holy into the image of Jesus Christ. It's called sanctification. 

Every day we must intentionally ask:

Am I willing to die to self today so I can present Christ well?

If God's name, I AM, plainly states the holy, unwavering character of God without reservation, then...

Am I, without trepidation, displaying God's holy character well under the authority of His holy name?

We, the nation of God's holy people, must fall humbly to our knees in broken repentance, asking Him to forgive us of ignoring His call to holiness - to stand up and stand out. We must pray for the courage and strength to die to self and walk in obedience. Only then can we rise up to live separate, distinguishable, countercultural lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, and resist the evil one who is seeking to destroy our families, our youth, and all people through broken lives and broken minds.

Dear Jesus, 

Forgive us. Give us courage to stand out among the crowd and be recognized as Your ambassadors, your holy people. Help us to heed the call to be Light and to bring hope to a hopeless world. 

In Your powerful name (I AM) we pray, 

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hospitality - Extending the Heart of God

Don't you just love it when God connects the dots in His Word to help us understand and apply truth in our everyday lives? 

God continues to point me to what living a holy life looks like - how Believers are called to be set-apart, to stand out, to be distinguishable from among unbelievers. 

Some dots He's connecting for me:
  • 1 Peter 1- my meditation since January 1, 2018. "Be holy because I am holy (vs.16b).
  • Live Like You Belong to God - our small group Bible study by Kay Arthur, emphasizing the holy life we're called to.  
  • Books - all threaded with the same theme of hospitality and holiness. 
One of the books I've read this month, The Turquoise Table by Kristin Schell, has ignited an even deeper passion for something my husband and I already do - open up our home.

I just couldn't put it down. I fell in love with its cover the moment I saw it in the bookstore and even more with the idea of The Turquoise Table. If you've never heard of Schell's book, you're probably bumfuzzled, thinking, "What's the big deal about a turquoise table?

I'm so glad you asked.

A simple, but life-changing, invitation was extended to gather people in Schell's front yard. The meeting place was an ordinary, wooden picnic table, painted her favorite color, nifty turquoise. Her table has become a welcomed go-to spot for neighbors, friends, and family who desire rich, quality time of getting to know each other. They simply talk while sharing a freshly baked plate of cookies, a hot pot of coffee, sweet iced tea, or some refreshing lemonade. Nothing fancy, because this table is not about entertaining. It's all about being present in the lives of people, and being an extension of the heart of God.

The Turquoise Table became a life-long dream of implementing an age-old art. While studying abroad, Schell was inspired by a French family who used their time around the dinner table to deepen relationships with family and friends. Ever since, she's longed for a table just like theirs. Longing for real community in a new neighborhood, she had to get creative. So, she purchased a picnic table and designed a plan to gather her neighbors in her front yard. Now, not only does she have a turquoise picnic table in her front yard, but many more have popped up all over her neighborhood, across the United States, and even in other countries. It's a movement that's changing homes and hearts all across the world.

We all long to belong, don't we?

God, the Creator of all things, extended the very first invitation to Adam and Eve to commune with Him, and He's been inviting people ever since. God invented community for His people to not only commune with Him, but also with each other. His people, Believers, are called to love and care for one another. As we follow Christ in obedience by loving and meeting one another's needs, we are extending His invitation out into the world, inviting them to join God's community of Believers.

Holiness is reflected through hospitality.
The word holy is embedded into the word hospitality. Therefore, when God's holy people are hospitable, the character of God is on full display. This gives me goose bumps!

My turquoise table is being made out of something that represents the opening our home for over 30 years. In January 2017, we finally replaced the original front door to our home. It was 40 years old, warped, and would hardly close. But, it had served us well. Many, many people have walked through that door into the place where we do life, onto the red carpet where we make disciples, counsel, and enjoy one another's company. After years of weather, wear and tear, it was time to let her go.

But I just couldn't let go of that old tattered door completely. It was so much a part of what God has done in our lives, and what He continues to do as we seek to reflect His holy character through hospitality. We welcome people in, love them, and teach them what God's taught us through His Word. We've dedicated each of the three houses we've lived in as a place for ministry. Whoever God would lead to walk through the door, we would embrace and love them because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-8)

After a year of leaning against the fence behind our carport, the ole' door is being refurbished by a good friend and turning her into our very own turquoise table, extending our behind-closed-doors hospitality into the front yard.

Can I just say, "I'm about to burst with excitement!" I can't wait to see the finished product. (Oh, don't worry. I'll post more pics as progress is being made.) I can't wait to invite people from our neighborhood to gather around the turquoise table to shoot the breeze, relax, build relationships, and enjoy life together.

That ole' front door will continue to serve her designed purpose as she displays what's written on our hospitable hearts to all who long to belong, "Yes, we're OPEN!"

My Pleasure,

Monday, February 5, 2018

The HeArt of Welcome

For a long time now, I've pondered the idea of putting a book together for those who want to learn the deeper meaning of the HeArt of welcome. Anyone can invite someone into their home, neighborhood, community, or church, but what does welcome look like when reflecting the image of Christ?

My family always had a picnic table in our yard. Whether at the lake or in our backyard, the picnic table was always open. I guess this is where I first witnessed the HeArt of welcome. My mom and dad had the gift, but they also had the heart of Christ. Our doors were always open to those in need or for just being present in the lives of people. We had more fun around those tables. From slurping watermelon to scarfing down fresh, fried fish, from char-grilled hamburgers and hotdogs to homemade coleslaw and Lay's potato chips, our yard was always full of fun, food, family and friendships.

I miss those lazy days basking in the sunshine with gobs of people gathered around. I miss my dad's silly jokes, my mom's amazing cooking, and not having a care in the world. I miss the table talk - conversations about anything and everything. I miss the laughter. And, I especially miss not having to watch the clock because we had to hurry off to get to somewhere else.

Time was never short. We were never in a hurry.

Time was rich and full because being present with each other is what mattered. 

Now, we never seem to have enough time to "get-it-all-done." We cram into the white squares on our calendars crazy stuff that really doesn't matter in the eyes of eternity. Why are we so scattered, forgetful and worn slap out? It's because we meet ourselves coming and going, doing this, going here, there and yonder, believing we're living the full life God promised us, when all we're doing is filling life with lesser things.

I'm sure in my parents' 50 years of marriage they entertained some angel strangers and weren't even aware of it. And in our attempt to accomplish more and more, we're missing out on the simple art of heart - welcoming people into our lives and our homes; not for the sake of entertaining, but for Jesus' sake.

Hospitality originated with God. He created us to bring Him glory, and He's always desired to do life well with us. His name, Immanuel, means God with us.

Community has become a Christian buzz word - a word magnified and overused until no one wants to hear it anymore. You see it everywhere, even churches have inserted it into their names as if Church doesn't mean community. Living in "community" isn't man's idea - it was God's idea. Gathering His people in His fullness of His presence was always His intent. This is where our hospitality flows from - the heart of a loving God pouring in and out of hearts devoted to Jesus Christ. Christ's heart is all about inviting people into His space. He never shuns or shies away from anyone desiring to belong. His heart gushes love, compassion and mercy all over anyone who is willing to walk by faith, live like Christ, and obey His commands.

Be hospitable to one another without complaining (1 Peter 4:9). 

A cheerful heart doesn't just give money away or place it in an offering plate during a worship service. A cheerful heart gives time and talents as well. This is the HeArt of Welcome. It's being present in the moment with and for each other. We love because He first loved us. And we give of ourselves out of our love for Him.

Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us
 and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 
Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another 
(1 John 4:10-11, CSB).

How can you show the HeArt of Welcome where you are? I'd love to hear your ideas.

My Pleasure,

P.S. If you haven't already, would you please subscribe to my blog. I'm working on a book proposal and I need to be able to show publishers I have an engaged audience. Thank you in advance.