Wednesday, July 25, 2012

when looking for compassion.

"When we're looking for compassion, we need someone who is deeply rooted, able to bend, and most of all, we need someone who embraces us for our strengths and struggles. We need to honor our struggle by sharing it with someone who has earned the right to hear it." - Brené Brown

Friday, July 20, 2012

nehemiah: a heart that can break (session five).

Things I've Learned Lately [Session Five]
  • Nehemiah's vision to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem wasn't accompanied by a flurry of signs and wonders. Quite the opposite, actually. Nehemiah heard from God based on a profound need. After being informed of the need, Nehemiah prayed and sought God's heart.
  • Our common, every day realities are ideal environments for God to put something in our hearts to do. According to Nehemiah, it is possible for Him to do this wherever a need appears, coupled with a willing heart to pray and to act.
  • Do not forsake the truth that God has chosen you, loves you, and has set you apart for wonderful works in His kingdom. [See Colossians 3:12].
  • The Hebrew word for confession is yada, which means "to express praise, give thanks, extol, make a public admission." Confession isn't confined to expressing sins. We can also confess God's name, our faith, or a truth. When we confess, we are simply agreeing with God or telling the truth about a matter. Sometimes our confession will be about our sin, other times it will be about God's goodness, majesty, faithfulness, compassion.
  • Confessing God's faithfulness doesn't mean ignoring the hard facts in our lives but reminds us that He is the only One who can truly handle them.
  • A faithful heart is not necessarily a perfect heart.
  • The older we get, the more history we have with the Lord, meaning we can reflect on more of His faithfulness in our lives.
  • God sees where you are and hears your cry. One of the worst things we can believe about God during a season of hardship is that we have somehow escaped His view or His hearing. God is not distant. He guides, speaks, and clearly lays out a way for us to live through His commands and laws. These laws exist so we can know life in its truest sense.
  • Whenever the Israelites faced difficulty in the desert they chose to believe something false about God. Three of these falsities were that He had abandoned them, withheld from them, or wouldn't meet their needs.
  • Romans 15:4 says that everything written in the past was written to teach us so we can have hope through the endurance and encouragement of the Scripture.
  • To put our faith in something that has not been promised to us is crazy or at best vainly hopeful; to refuse believing in something God has guaranteed us is equally ludicrous.
  • One of the ways we can tell we're enslaved to a false god is when the harvest God intends for us to enjoy is going someplace else -- like when we're giving our best away for the sake of securing the approval or attachment of someone. Same thing when we don't have control over our bodies but are bound to food, a person, fear, the television, etc. As well, we know we're enslaved when we've lost control over what God intends for us to rule over. Essentially, we know we are living as slaves when we're not enjoying what God has promised to us. The beauty is that we can find our way out of slavery by turning our hearts back to God through confession.
  • For many of us, a clear conscience and a pure heart for the purpose of drawing near to Jesus remains an intellectual understanding, sadly separated from our realities.
  • We deny the love of Jesus when we cling to self-hatred and resist the offer of a pure conscience by hanging onto guilt.
  • "Many people do not show growth in their walks with Jesus because they do not want to change the way they are living. At times they might even be moved to tears by their failures. But they do not surge ahead because basically they want to do exactly as they have been doing." - James Montgomery Boice

Saturday, July 14, 2012

nehemiah: a heart that can break (session four).

Things I've Learned Lately [Session Four]
  • The power of God's Word that frees ourselves from ourselves is the portal to the most fulfilling experiences in the universe.
  • Sometimes I just want God to tell me what to do - and when I look closely enough at His Word, most of the time I realize He already has.
  • I am so drawn to Jesus because in Him there is no condemnation, favoritism, exclusivity, no running around trying to find our documents of OK-ness. The belief system of Christianity may be exclusive, but the invitation is anything but.
  • If Jerusalem's walls were about anything, they appeared to be about division. Under God's direction, Nehemiah and the Jews vigilantly rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem expressly for the Jews, making a way for a Jewish Messiah to one day come for the purpose of tearing down those dividing walls.
  • God's Word is a gift He has given to us for fullness of life and relationship with Him. Ordinary life is to be inspired and directed by the rule and reign of God.
  • Where would we be if God had not spoken? Where would you be if God had kept silent? What I believe about God and how I respond to His voice affects every dimension of how I live. When we understand God's Word as truth for all of life, it changes everything.
  • Though at times we certainly need to "go into the house of mourning," there are also days when we should celebrate. God loves celebration, community, feasting, and lightness of heart, especially when it is directly connected to Him and His grace in our lives.
  • It can be easy to let morality and behavior patterns slip if we look to one another to set our standards.
  • The Enemy often turns remembrance into grief and regret; grief and regret usually stem from something done in the past. If we have been forgiven, then God has also taken up our grief and regret; therefore to hang onto those emotions and give them a front row seat in our emotional life doesn't honor God and what He has done to forgive us. It also just steals our joy and freedom. We need to choose to remember what God did to forgive us and set us free.
  • We look for little pockets of happiness to sustain us, but true joy is different. Unencumbered, uncomplicated joy needs nothing but the presence of Christ to light its wick in our hearts. Joy frees us.

Friday, July 13, 2012

some thoughts on compassion.

"Christ’s people feel compassion like Christ did, and they feel the strike to the stomach, they feel the pain in the deepest places, and they hurt and they bend over and they reach down and they reach out and their lives become cruciformed, shaped into the cross of Christ. Compassion isn’t merely a vague sense — but a feeling so strong that it causes you to bend: it shapes your body, your life, into a response. Compassion is the radical cross-shaping of a life." -- Ann Voskamp

When I was in college, my friend Lauren used to say that there are some people out there who feel the hurt of the world more acutely than others. She said that these sensitive people are very attuned to God's heart, but that, even so, they feel just an ounce of what God feels for His hurting children in this world. When I read the above quote in one of Ann's latest blog posts, I was reminded that though compassion can be painful at times, it is what motivates us to act.

Maybe that is why some people are both blessed and burdened by the gifts of compassion and mercy: maybe it is because God knows that these are the people who will do something about it. Maybe it is because these are the people who will open their hearts to allow Him to work through them to make a difference for others...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

nehemiah: a heart that can break (session three).

I realized that I was a week ahead of my teammates in this bible study, so I took a week off to get on their schedule! Now that we're on track, here are some little gems that I learned from the third session:

Things I've Learned Lately [Session Three]
  • God commanded the Israelites to leave their extra sheaves, olives, and grapes for the foreign, the fatherless, and the widow - for all of the people who didn't have what the Israelites had and who didn't have the means to get what they had. He commands us to do the same with our paychecks and material goods! 
  • Clashes aren't only reserved for the good guys versus the bad guys; sometimes the most difficult trials we face are within our own walls. 
  • We expect enemies to wound us, but wounds from a relative or loved one inflict hurt inside the private property lines of our souls. Those closest to us have intimate access, making their wounds the most penetrating. 
  • One of the most insidious characteristics of oppression and abuse is that it's always inflicted upon the powerless. 
  • We need to ask ourselves if we care about injustice. If we do, what are we doing about it? 
  • Even if we deserve what's coming to us, if the end result is not the love of God and the love of others, what lies inside the lines of permissible is no longer beneficial. This is gospel living, as opposed to a life driven by getting whatever is rightfully ours. 
  • Though we have every right to receive the material rewards of hard-earned work, occasionally a higher goal is worth setting those material rewards aside. Nehemiah is an example of this, as he loved people far more than whatever money could provide. 
  • Fear, insecurity, and doubt cause us to let down our guard and give in to the Enemy. Stay focused on God and keep His goals in your sight. He's got your back! 
  • Pride and arrogance are completely contrary to God's heart. 
  • Men and women alike know what it's like to face discouragements and setbacks, even intimidating enemies who never cease to amaze us with their varying bullets of fear and lies. The trick is to learn how to deal with condemning voices and distractions while not forsaking the work God has called us to. 
  • Determining what we should say yes to and what we need to say no to is often one of the hardest things to discern, especially since inexhaustible needs and opportunities surround us. When you clarify who God created you to be and what He wants you to do, you can more easily determine what opportunities fit into your vision and which ones don't. 
  • One of the greatest tactics of the Enemy is that he will lie to us and then try to attach us to that lie with a cord of fear - they are codependent little things. We can allow others to talk us into almost anything when lies and fear dictate our actions. Lies and fear always have a negative goal: they attempt to destroy the person and thus the project the person is behind. 
  • Anytime someone encourages us to do something contrary to God's word, we can know for certain this advice is not from God. 
  • God stands to accomplish the impossible through us while too often we're content to settle for the explainable. The impossible requires taking time to listen for what He has put in our heart to do. It means believing that He will accomplish what He has spoken. 
  • Any time God reaches into time, space, or history to accomplish something for us, we find ourselves in the midst of a miracle. Why? Because when God helps us it is nothing short of the supernatural colliding with the natural. 
  • Good deeds, whatever they may be, never trump a heart that deceives, mocks, or uses intimidation. May we stay out of the gossip fray, petition God to reveal our motives, and not allow ourselves to be swayed merely by outward deeds. 
  • People often find themselves entirely overwhelmed with the demands of ministry, but to what end? If you've lost sight of the people for whom you spend yourself, you have entirely missed the heart of why you do what you do. Nehemiah never lost sight of the purpose behind rebuilding the wall: it was always for the people.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

damalie and 147 million orphans.

I had a few seconds yesterday to catch up with Courtney while we were at work (and can I take a minute to tell you how much I love working with my friends? It's a huge gift!). She told me to check out one of the blogs from 147 Million Orphans because they are currently in Jinja and have been able to provide so much help to a woman, Damalie, who runs a home for abandoned babies. Damalie is very familiar to Visiting Orphans because her orphanage is one that they send teams to as well - I'll get to work with her in October, actually! If you want to hear about the amazing work that God accomplished through 147 Million Orphans just a few days ago for Damalie and her little ones, check out this link.