Reaching Out When Rejection is Certain

Image of flowers with the text for John 13:34
Have you ever sensed God asking to reach out to someone, to initiate reconciliation, knowing with near certainty they’d reject your attempts?
About a week ago, this happen to my husband, and watching, I felt as if my heart were shredding.
I had just finished reading about the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas, revealed in Acts 15:36-41. It’s easy to miss the significance of this, to sort of skim over, or perhaps not even really consider, the pain this conflict must’ve caused. Their relationship had to have been incredibly deep. It was Barnabas who sought Paul out and, basically, drew him into ministry. Together, they traveled across the Mediterranean planting churches. (If you’ve ever experienced the bonds that occur on short term mission trips, you can understand how close this must’ve made them.) Together, they’d endured intense persecution and had risked their lives on numerous occasions.
They were beyond tight. But then, they had a sharp disagreement over John Mark, and split ways. Yet remained in the same faith community. This conflict must have stung every time they heard one another’s names spoken among their evangelical circles and whenever they heard of the other’s ministry endeavors and successes.
Relational conflict hurts! And it happens all the time. But our reconciliation efforts can be a powerful purple flowers against a wooden fence with words pulled from post.display of the gospel.
As I said, about a week ago, God called my husband to humbly contact people we knew wouldn’t be receptive. My daughter, having seen how deeply these individuals had hurt him in the past, and wanting to protect her daddy from further pain, got upset and cried. “They’re just going to hurt him again,” she said. Though I knew she was right and wanted to echo her warnings, I told her that is precisely how we (mankind) treat Jesus. He reaches out to us again and again, and yet, we continue to reject Him. But still He pursues us. And sometimes, as His followers, He calls us to do the same, even though we know we’ll likely be rejected, in order to demonstrate a love that is completely different than what we see in the world.
So that’s what my husband did. And yes, he experienced rejection, and I know that hurt him deeply. But I also believe he was obedient, and we can both find joy in that. More than that, I know he demonstrated the initiating, self-sacrificing, humble love of Christ.
When has God asked you to do the same, or maybe when has He revealed His love to you through someone else? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.
Before you go, I have fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries’ 90-day devotional has released!
Drawing Near: a 90-Day Devotional:
Each day, God beckons us to Himself, calling us to rest in His love and grace. As we do, He heals our hurts, overpowers our fears with love, and restores us to the women He created us to be. This 90-day devotional, written by women who are learning themselves to live anchored in God’s grace, will help you deepen your faith and grow your relationship with Christ.
Grab your copy HERE.

YOU Are the Church

Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by Marcolm taken from freedigitalphotos.net

There are numerous articles expounding on all that’s wrong with the church. They’re trying to be too contemporary, too relevant. They’re behind the times. They’re full of hypocrites, ran by hypocrites. They’re too judgmental, or too lenient, or too rigid, or to laxed…

I could go on, but I choose not to.

I’d rather remind us all that WE are the church. We are the ones whom Christ sent out, to help the poor, love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, to die to ourselves and “to find common ground with everyone, doing everything [we] can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22b).

Because let’s face it, our pastors are outnumbered. In a congregation of 500, in a given week, you’ll have those who are sick and in need of visitation, those who are struggling financially and in need of aid, single moms who are lonely and in need of a friend, and I could go on. And on. And on.

Sadly, there will likely always be more needs than resources to meet them. That benevolence fund created to help families in need eventually runs dry, and needs you and I to contribute to it. Because the funds for ministries aimed at showing Christ’s love and helping our communities come from you and I.

As I type this, I’m thinking of Jesus’ advice in Matthew 7:3-5

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (NLT).

The hypocrite, it seems, is the one who criticizes others without taking the time to evaluate themselves, without taking the time to zero in on and remove the plank that’s distorting their vision.

When I do this, when I focus on my vision-distorting plank, I suddenly remember all the times I chose to buy a latte rather than giving to a need. Or when I avoided that which was inconvenient or awkward–the reaching out to a new neighbor, or watching the children of a single mother, or cleaning the house of a shut-in–to do that which was most pleasurable.

Each day, I make selfish, non-loving choices. Each day, I get caught up in my agenda, or my schedule, or even the 5,000 thoughts swirling through my popcorn-kernelling brain. Leaving those I love and want to love hurt in my wake.

And each day, I must confess this selfish side of me to Christ, asking Him to help me do better, to love better, and to better Lovewithactionversereflect who He is.

So let’s drop our pointing fingers, set aside our debates, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Because there’s a big, hurting world out there, a world of incredible needs, and it’s going to take all of us, working together, to meet them. To love them. And to reach this generation for Christ.

Unity of the gospel is a powerful thing.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this! How do you feel about the points raised in this post? (If you disagree, that’s totally OK! 🙂 ) When have you been tempted to focus on another’s faults or weaknesses, either personally or in relation to their ministry? How did God bring you back to a place of unity? Why do you think people are often quick to point fingers at the church? What are the dangers in doing so?

Share your thoughts with me in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And before you go, I wanted to introduce you to our newest addition to the Living by Grace team: Susan Aken! My regularly readers are probably fairly familiar with Susan and her writing by now, as I’ve had her on here numerous times. She has such a heart for Christ and such a sweet, humble way of presenting thought provoking truth. She’ll be hosting on Mondays. In the meantime, visit her blog (HERE) and tell her hello!

And, if you haven’t done so, I encourage you to sign up for my (our) free quarterly newsletter. When you do, not only will you receive great content (serial story segments, devotions, recipes, and more!), but you’ll also receive free e-copies of my two compilations: Sweet Freedom With a Slice of Peach Cobbler and Sweet Freedom Ala Mode. So sign up now! 🙂 (If you’ve already signed up but didn’t receive your free copy yet, please let me know! I’ve had some emails bounce back on me.)

 

Focusing on and Living Your Purpose

Created a new verse picKnowing why we are here changes everything… if that reason is true, valid, and big enough to carry all the muck. I was thinking about this very thing yesterday, as I pushed through some physical challenges. Thinking how all this gunk, (and we’ve all got our gunk) would feel utterly pointless and defeating, if not for my mission in Christ.

Knowing–and living–our purpose changes everything. Today my sweet friend and Author photoone of my most cherished critique partners Marji Lane shares her thoughts on this liberating and life-infusing subject this morning.

The Purpose of Our Lives by Marji Lane

I saw a tweet the other day that apparently quoted the Dali Lama. According to the tweeter, the purpose of our lives is to be happy.

Really? What a self-absorbed, empty life that is. It’s all about me being happy. That means whatever it takes to make ME happy, that’s what I should do because my purpose is to enjoy happiness.

Yikes. No wonder folks are so messed up.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I know wrong ones when I see them. I don’t care how often-quoted or sincere a person is; wrong is just wrong.

Purpose for our lives goes back to creation. Why were humans made in the first place?

“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” Genesis 1:26. And in the third chapter, in the midst of the first sin, the man and the woman “heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day …. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Sounds like Adam and Eve had a habit of walking with God in the cool of the evening. So much so, that when they weren’t there, He called out to them. (Not that He didn’t know what was going on.) All this leads me to believe they were created to be the Lord’s companions. That identifies where I should be putting my effort now.

I need to make sure I cultivate that ongoing relationship with my Heavenly Father.Draw Near verse pic

In addition, Christ gave instruction to share the good news of His gift of eternal life. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” Matthew 28:19.

Another purpose for my being here is to share the amazing love and grace of the Father, the sacrifice of Christ, and the good news of our adoption into God’s family. I find this purpose difficult to act on. I’m not naturally an evangelist – I don’t have that gift of the Spirit. Yet, regardless of how comfortable I feel doing it, I am still called to share.

I do have one other purpose, one that falls more fully into my forte. Whereas I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelism, I do have the gift of exhortation. The apostle Paul, through the Holy Spirit’s prompting, urges us to encourage one another in Christ and build up His Body, the Church. (1 Thessalonians 5:11) I am called to find ways to support other believers, to strengthen them as they act in accord with the Lord’s work and will. My words need to be full of grace and love, with the intent to renew the spirits of my brothers and sisters. Especially when they are struggling for the cause of Christ.

This certainly gives more depth and satisfaction than to simply “be happy.” And all of my actions should fulfill my purposes.

  • Learn about the Father through scripture and spend time with Him in prayer, listening to the Spirit’s urging to follow as closely to Him as I can.
  • Sharing the truth that I’ve learned with hurting people who desperately need to know of the hope and love they can have through Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Encouraging other believers with my words and actions—”Speak to one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Ephesians 5:19—in order to strengthen the body of Christ.

Looking at these in a nutshell, I see I’m not in the center of any of them. My desires are focused on others and on the Lord. That type of focus brings true satisfaction and joy. Especially when the quest for joy isn’t the point of what I’m doing.

Your turn: How do you define your purpose?

Marji Laine is a homeschooling mom with teenage twins left in the nest. An independent author with her debut novel, GRIME BEAT, just released, she spends her non-writing times transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

imgresGrime Beat:

Her best friend missing, every cell in Dani Foster’s body screams something is wrong.

Crime scene cleaning is the perfect job for relocated Dani Foster. But her orders to maintain a low profile and stay out of trouble mean little when her friend goes missing. Suspicions point to the handsome crime scene specialist, Jay Hunter, but he’s also the only person willing to help Dani. Dare she trust him even when lies seem to surround him?

Dani amuses Jay. Her penchant for speaking and acting without regard to the consequences land her in the funniest situations. But her latest moves have thrust her into serious danger. As he learns more about her circumstances, the stakes rise until her very life is on the line. He has no time or inclination for romance, but this girl needs him, and she seems to have no one else. How can he turn his back?

This is the first episode of this Christian Mystery and Romance series set in Dallas, Texas. Dani’s troubles and Jay’s attraction are only just beginning!

Buy it HERE!

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Have you discovered your purpose? The reason you’re here? Are you living it? What things tend to distract you from living out your purpose? What activities or verses help you to remain diligent and focused on your purpose? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And before you go… have you signed up for my (and 7 other authors) free quarterly newsletter? If not, wanna? You’ll receive free serial story segments, recipes, devotions, and more!

(Check out our last edition HERE!)

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Exponential Expansion

God continues to amaze me with His rapid expansion of Christ to the World Ministries. It is extremely fulfilling to know the material I write reaches millions in countries all around the world, many living in areas hostile to the gospel. Broadcasting in over 23 different countries, it’s hard to believe this ministry is only six (seven?) years old.

I just received an email telling of CTTW’s continued expansion into Africa. The goal? To reach all the African countries within the next five years. And based on their progress thus far, I’d say that is an attainable goal (God willing, of course).

Find out more about this Christ-centered, gospel-sharing ministry I write for, what God’s doing and how you can help us fulfill the Great Commission: Waves of Progress

Are You a Hoarder?

The other night I caught the last ten minutes of “Extreme Couponing.” The producers ended the show by scanning through numerous stocked pantries. Boxes and boxes of crackers sat next to row after row of Gatorade. More than one family could possibly eat in a life-time, and these women were proud of their stock pile. They were proud that their pantries were stuffed to the brim with more food than they could eat, while millions starve daily.

It’s easy to become a hoarder. Maybe not to the extreme of those coupon-clipping ladies, but we all like to have our safety nets. Our nest eggs. Our guarantees. We lived in Louisiana when Katrina hit. Although we lived far enough away from the storm to stay safe, the entire state experienced heartache as Katrina victims flooded our towns, churches, and made-shift shelters. Seeing such devastation led to a lot of “what-iffing” and soon the local stores were stripped bare. Why? Because everyone stocked their pantries with water and staples in case another storm hit.

But does God want us to stock pile? Does God want us focused on ourselves? The other day my sister shared a story with me that illustrated the truth presented in the biblical account of manna. To recap, the Israelites were wandering through the desert, not knowing where they would sleep each night nor what lay ahead. And what normally happens when we face the unknown? We spiral in fear. We stock pile. We spin safety nets. God promised to provide for their needs, but a few of the Israelites grew anxious. What if God forgot a day, or changed his mind? So they gathered more manna than they needed, only it didn’t do them any good. In fact, their manna rotted, creating quite a stench!

The other day my sister shared a modern-day manna story. After the recent economic downturn, stock market crash, upheaval in other countries, sky-rocketing gas prices and political unrest in America, she and her husband decided to prepare for the “what-ifs”. They stocked their basement shelves with numerous food items, including vacuum sealed potatoes. A few months later, a nasty stench emanated from their basement. At first they thought perhaps their sewage system had backed up. Yep, it was that bad.

But nope, it wasn’t sewage. Their “manna” had rotted. After searching their basement, they found their bag of potatoes, ballooned by the gases formed during decomposition. To my sister, this was a vivid reminder not to hoard and stock pile but instead, to trust in God.

I wrote an article about this for the Christian Pulse and it will go live on June 14th. I’ll try to link to it, although I’ll be in El Salvador and potentially without internet access, so no promises.

Before I leave, think back over the account of the New Testament church. Find any hoarders? Nope. What we see are men and women so madly in love with Jesus they do whatever it takes to see His church expanded and His love made known. God doesn’t want us to self-preserve. He wants us to lay it all on the alter, daily.

Are you doing that? If not, what area of your life do you need to release?

Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.  (NIV)

Cancerous or Contagious

About a decade ago, the church we attended experienced a split. I don’t need to go into details, but before long, the entire congregation was a buzz of negativity and polarization. Lines were drawn that never should have been drawn and the cancer became contagious. What started as a difference in opinion between two leaders opened the door for criticism in every area of ministry. And for a moment, I grew confused. I wondered if perhaps God was calling my husband and I out of the church. Were we to join all the others following pastor B? As I took it to God in prayer, He helped me see the bigger issue and the root cause of our church’s disunity. Satan had wiggled his foot in and was working to throw the door wide open. How would Satan destroy the church? How would he weaken our witness? By getting us to lash out at one another.

I’ve written about this before, but it appears, it’s worth writing about again. Lately I’ve been bombarded by barbs hurled by Christians at other Christians and I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:25, …”Every kingdom divided against itself is destroyed, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (NIV)

Now granted, I’m taking this verse out of context, but the principle applies just the same. In our home, the moment I start to bash my husband, I invite division. My heart turns against him, bitterness simmers, and my daughter is left to choose sides. And on my husband’s end, his effectiveness is hindered by turmoil and distrust. Not the ingredients for a happy household. But even worse is what it looks like to the onlooker.

We’ve all heard 1 Corinthians 13. This passage is so popular, it’s often quoted in secular media, and when witnessing to others, Christians use it to explain the love of God. Yet, sadly, we rarely live it out.

 1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Oh, we love our family. We love our friends. But that church down the street? We spew nasty comments so fast our tongues get whiplash. Then we justify our actions by thinking that’s not our family. Our family attends Holy Trinity.

Funny, I don’t think God has the same view of family. Nor do I think we understand the role of the body of Christ. Our family extends far beyond our church walls. As a writer for an international ministry, I’m often aware of my dependency and responsibility to the WHOLE body of Christ. Our pastor may give a sermon that influences my writing which in turn influences a believer in India who in turn influences another believer.

So when I bash another believer or their ministry, whether part of my immediate church family or the far-reaching body of Christ, I’m rebelling against 1 Corinthians 13 and proving myself a liar.

Perhaps you’d agree with what I’m saying, to a point…. But what happens when you disagree with someone else’s methods? Not message, mind you, but methods. There is a difference. And here’s the sad truth: we spend way too much time debating methods and way too little time sharing the message. What kind of music should we have? What kind of novels should Christians write? How should pastors lead their youth group?

That’s not to say there won’t be times to help initiate change. We live in a rapidly changing culture and therefore must continually adapt. However, a rule of thumb I’ve always followed: Don’t complain unless you a) have a solution to offer and b) are willing and ready to be part of the solution. Otherwise, you’re just part of the problem.

Before I go, I’m going to leave y’all with one more passage. Chew on it for a moment, and commit to honor God with your mouth. Commit to support your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world, looking beyond the pew in front or behind you. Commit to being the body–one body, one church, ruled by one Savior who died for us all.

James 3:9-12

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (NIV)

Here’s my parting question: Is your witness, verbal and behavioral, contagious or cancerous? The next time you’re tempted to bash another believer or their ministry, remember what’s at stake. We’re Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with His soul-saving gospel. With so many people living in darkness, is there time to hurl insults at one another? Our time would be much better spent clamping our jaws shut and getting busy on those things that make an eternal difference.

(You may want to re-read a similar post published last December entitled A Venomous Tongue.)