• Belize •

SubstandardFullSizeRenderMy passport just came in the mail, and I couldn’t be more excited!

About a month ago my friend and I stood watching our brothers play basketball. I was sharing with her that I would love to write the stories of overseas missionaries—what they’re doing, how the Lord is moving in and through them and reaching the hearts of individuals. I would love to use stories to connect God’s family.

After sharing this with my friend she simply asked,  “Do you want to go to Belize?”

There is a small school, Toledo Christian Academy (TCA), in the Yemeri Grove/Jacintoville area of Belize. The school, run by Belizean and American staff, accepts children in the pre-school age group all the way through middle school. The school is supported, primarily, by churches here in the States and relies on frequent short-term mission groups for the upkeep of their grounds and facilities.

The purpose of the school is to give students a foundational education, grounded in Scripture. Each school day is begun with a devotional time, and teachers use a biblically-based curriculum for the students’ subjects. The children have a full day of classes, sports, and fellowship with their classmates and teachers. (If you would like more information about the school, you can follow this link to their website: http://www.tcabelize.com/.)

May 2nd-10th I will be going to visit TCA, with a small team, to teach/help in the classrooms with the staff, lead devotionals in the mornings, work on building/painting projects, play with the kids, meet the parents, and fulfill the needs of the staff in any way we possibly can. Our primary goal is to be yet another group of believers, living Truth, in these kids’ world. (If you would like to keep up with my team in the weeks leading up to the trip and while we are in Belize, you can follow this link to our blog: www.teambelizeblog.wordpress.com.)

Part of the vision God has given me is to encourage and inspire believers to grow in their personal relationship with the Lord, and to speak truth into the lives of the lost. My goal is to take every opportunity God gives me to use my gifts to fulfill that vision. I firmly believe that this trip is an opportunity to put my vision to action in a specific way. 

Please be praying for TCA, the staff, the students, and the churches supporting them. They are doing good work in Belize as they touch the hearts and lives of children and families for the glory of our Savior.

Please also be praying for me as I seek to trust God even more. Ask him to put me in situations where I am compelled (yet again) to acknowledge that I live entirely by his faithful grace to me. 

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”- Romans 15:13, ESV 

Gratitude

Having a “grateful heart” or an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the most significant lessons that I have learned in my 17 years of existence. My parents taught me that everything that I haveexperiences, people, stuff—is a gift from God, not an entitlement. As far as my memory can go complaining[1] has never been tolerated by either of my parents and whining was always a sure fire way to get myself a discipline and a good dose of “Madam Blueberry” (if you don’t know what Madam Blueberry is, you had a sad childhood). Mom and Dad, by drilling me to say “please” and “thank-you,”  showed me that I was to receive any service or gift with thankfulness. It is because of those seeds planted in my mind and heart by Mom and Dad that I know what it means to have a genuinely grateful heart.

Gratitude1Compared to most  in our world my family has had it incredibly good financially—we have always had a home, food, clothes and have been blessed by extra unneeded things and experiences (i.e. sports, speech and debate, electronics, appliances, books, movies et cetera). That said, it has not necessarily been easy for our family, on the contrary there have been times when we’ve struggled greatly. However, those times of insecurity made the lesson of thankfulness straightforward and very real for my siblings and I.

Really, I should not expect to get anything in this world because I don’t deserve it. What I do deserve is an eternity of Hell. Perspective, eh?

Yet, there is not a day that passes where I do not want something (not necessarily a literal possession) that I cannot have. Gratefulness is not a one-time deal. Christianity is not for quitters, and every day is a discouraging battle against my sinful self who is fighting to get me into a self-absorbed state of pride and entitlement.

How to win? Well, gratitude is a direct result of what Christ Jesus has done for me on the cross. It starts with HIM. 

 “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” – Colossians 2:6-7 (NLT)

How to let those roots grow deep?tree_with_heart_and_roots_family_reunion_invite-r6187b0751d594f8db4872c7781aa8557_8dnd0_8byvr_512

  • Start my day with prayer, and start that prayer with thanking God for whatever comes to my heart—a friend, a family member, an experience, a lesson, a piece of his creation that touched me.
  • Read the Bible faithfully. Nothing gives me food for thought like Scripture, and how can I think of myself when I’m reading about Jesus or having the Proverbs scream at me to get out of myself!
  • Call on the Holy Spirit to convict me throughout the day.

Much joy!

Emily

 


[1] Okay, complaining is a whole other discussion that I’d love to get into some time…eventually. Quickly though, I don’t think that there is anything with expressing frustration with a situation or a specific desire or anything. It is when complaining becomes ungratefulness that there is a problem. 🙂

Not Needed…Wanted

I truly think that God has fun deciding how he’s going to reveal his message to me. I cannot help but smile when I see how he perfectly orchestrates the lessons he wants me to learn. He builds strongly on top of what he’s previously taught me by speaking to me through his Word, the Holy Spirit, my daily circumstances and words from the Body of Christ. This week, God has been using all of his “means” to show me how big he is, and how utterly small I am.

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It began with a simple prayer as I cried out to God feeling weak in my emotions. As I prayed he reminded me that life is not about me; it never has been, and it never will be. He struck me with the truth that his love for me, his faithfulness to me, his gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit are not things that I deserve. No, they are the opposite of the wrath, rejection and Hell—eternal separation from his presence—I deserve for my rejection of him. Perspective, right? While I have been given the joy of living on this earth, I must remember that “my life”—school, basketball, speech, relationships, family, books, writing, hobbies—is HIS life.

He continued his message with 1 Corinthians 10:23-33

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

While God was not speaking to me about glorifying him specifically within the context of this passage [go read it], it caused me to ask this: what is my mission from Christ?

Matthew 28:18-20

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Not much about me, huh? All about bringing people to Jesus. That passage brought me to grips with the fact that the craziness of my life is to be harnessed into perspective—into right thinking.

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The final reinforcement of God’s “lesson of the week,” came in the form of a simple one-liner from my dad in the middle of lunch with some families after church today:

God doesn’t need anything from you. He just wants your love and obedience.

God doesn’t need me and he doesn’t need you. He’s got it together. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. He is the beginning, the end. He doesn’t need some fragile human to love him.

No, he, in his grace and love has decided to reach out and seek relationship with me. I have the joyful privilege of obeying him out of a willing heart through the strength of the Holy Spirit. All for him.

When I Don’t Want To

When I was a little person (little as in age) and I got into a bad mood and started being disrespectful to my mom or mean to my two siblings, my mom would do three things:

First, she’d tell me to knock the attitude off.

Second, she’d discipline me.[1]

Third, she’d tell me that I should probably go talk to Jesus for a while.

Well, that last one just always made me mad. I was already in a bad mood and the last think that I wanted to do was to go talk to Jesus. Why? Because I knew that I’d have to admit that I was wrong…and I don’t really like to do that. So, very sourly, I’d tell my mom that “I don’t want to pray.” Then she’d calmly respond “I guess that means you probably should, right?”

I think that we all feel that way about our walk with the Lord sometimes. I know that I still do as a young woman. I don’t feel like praying. I don’t want to read my Bible. I am uncomfortable reaching out to people I don’t know. I am upset when I have to serve in a way I don’t want to.

Want and Feel. Hmm. Where do those emotions come from? Answer: my sinful heart. Well, there is a truth that I’ve learned lately:

JESUS NEVER TOLD ME TO FOLLOW MY HEART.[2] HE TOLDME TO FOLLOW HIM.

Sometimes…no, all the time…that means doing things that I do not want to do. Following Jesus is work. It requires effort, devotion, discipline and a heart that is continually calling on the Holy Spirit for direction. The beautiful part is that when I do obey his command, the joy of following him gives me a desire to follow him more.

Each day I have a battle that I must wage in my own soul. Each day I am fighting the forces of evil in the spiritual realm trying to keep me from following Christ. Each day I have choices of who I’m going to live for: myself or God.

The Lord has given me the Holy Spirit to guide, challenge and correct me. His strength is all I need.


[1] At that age the most effective way for her to punish me was to take away whatever book I was reading that day. You know a girl is a bookworm when anything is better than her book getting taken away![1]Ha-ha, one time (in-between tears) I asked my mom for a spanking instead so that I could have my book back!

[2] The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah17:9 (ESV)

Perfect God Meets Broken Me

I can’t live perfectly. At every turn I stumble in my sin! It’s truly discouraging sometimes. I know that Jesus covered my sins with His blood. I know that it us by His death and resurrection that I am freed from eternal separation from God—forgiven and loved by the Lord. I understand that when I sin all I must do is turn in humble confession and repentance to the Lord Jesus. But, Jesus has called me to live a life that reflects His glory, right? That is my purpose: to glorify God. And every day I fail.

Well, this is a little something I found on the internet the other day:

First off, how can that not make you laugh! The whole ‘Lazarus was DEAD!’ had me rolling!

All of the people on that list are some of the biggest heroes of the Bible, and they did some awful, awful things and yet through each and every one of those broken people God’s power shone mightily.

That is encouraging to me. God can take my sinful weaknesses—a quick temper, impatience, worries—and use them for His glory. How? Well, how did He use the heroes of the Bible?

  • Peter: Peter’s ministry in the book of Acts is a powerful testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. In addition, 1 and 2 Peter are two of my favorite books of the Bible. Through Peter’s writings I am encouraged in my walk with the Lord.
  • David: Well, where do I start? The Psalms, his life story, his joyful worship of the Lord under all circumstances, his humble repentance after he sinned and so much more.
  • Paul: This man wrote 13 (14 if you count Hebrews) books of the New Testament after he turned from his sin. This man’s ministry is one of the most inspiring, instructional, encouraging stories in all of Scripture.

“”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I am a broken mess that God uses to show His beauty and perfection. Lord, I will never be able to comprehend your glory.

What is Love?

C.S. Lewis once stated that, “love is not an affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” This definition, this image of love is certainly not what today’s culture puts forth as romantic love. Instead, through the stories portrayed on the television screen; the descriptive sagas told on the pages of novels; the upbeat song lyrics of single hits, the sensual advertising in magazines, newspapers, commercials and billboards; romantic love is portrayed as a feeling of passion, desire for affection and lust for beauty.  Today, the true definition of the word love (as it applies between a man and a woman) is redefined and replaced by the United States’ popular culture as a feeling, fueled by whims of emotional and physical attraction.

Love is generically thought of as a feeling. Webster’s Dictionary defines love as an, “affection based on admiration or benevolence, the affection and tenderness felt by lovers, to hold dear, to feel a lover’s passion, devotion of tenderness for, to feel affection or experience desire, take pleasure in.” [1] So love, something that is vital to every healthy relationship between a man and a woman, is based by our culture on fallible, affectionate feelings. What happens when someone no longer feels affection for a person? Are they out of love? Were they ever in love in the first place?  Everyone can testify to the fact that feelings are unsustainable: they are susceptible to impulse and constant fluctuation. In a relationship, there will be disagreement and frustrations, and each person’s feelings are not a solid basis for their true love for each other. If a relationship is to stand and not fade, its’ foundation must be based on something stronger and more stable than feeling—commitment. Feelings of affection, feelings of tenderness and feelings of passion, however, are placed by the culture in a much higher position than commitment.

Along with feelings, physical beauty is irrevocably linked by the culture to love. The obsession with beauty is evidenced all around us in movies and advertising. Through these images of beauty, people (especially girls) are taught that the result of beauty is love. Hannah Farver, a young, Christian author puts is like this, “We think beauty will buy us love…would beauty be important if we didn’t also want the admiration that supposedly follows being beautiful? We think beauty equals love, and love is a cause all of us want to get behind. We’ve confused beauty into some kind of cheap replacement for real love and satisfaction.”[2] Being physically attractive to the person you love and expressing your deep commitment to that person through physical intimacy both play a vital role in the husband/wife relationship; sexual relations between a man and wife are part of God’s perfect design. However, beauty and physical attraction do not deserve the ‘end all’ role that they receive from pop-culture. Physical beauty, as defined by the culture, is fragile, and at a certain point it fades. A relationship founded on physical attraction alone is unsustainable; love is deeper than the skin.

Love is meant to be a commitment, a promise, a dedication, fueled by, as C.S. Lewis stated, “a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good.” But today—through the influence of our culture—the definition of love is a flame that bursts into being from the kindling of emotional sensation and lust; but when the flame is not fed by the solid wood of steady commitment, the flame becomes a flicker and dies a quick death among the ashes.

 


[1] Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary – Definition of love

[2] Uncrompromising: A Heart Claimed by a Radical Love, by Hannah Farver, Chapter 1, pp. 26-27