Monday, March 24, 2014

My First Love

2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelations 2:2-4

My greatest fear in the ministry is that my heart will grow cold towards the things of God or I will become bitter and distance myself from the people of God. Recently Chad was talking to a man who had served in the ministry for a long time and had just become weary of sharing his faith. It is especially hard when working in difficult areas where we fight against so many spiritual strongholds. Sometimes I feel like The Gospel gets trampled by those marching in line to their destruction.

Last night the girls at church were really struggling, and speaking honestly about where they are in their walk with God. One girl said she is just living in doubt, another admits she is enjoying the sin in her life too much to live for God. “I don’t see the treasure you keep talking about.” She admitted. The things of God have no value to her right now.

Once again, I came home with a pretty heavy heart. While falling asleep, the only way I could let go of the burden was to pray, “God, I believe you sent Your Son Jesus so we could have peace with you. Please give me the strength to share this peace I have found. Give them the faith to accept this peace.” 

This morning we were back in the usual routine of getting ready for school. Rooms were clean, at least picked up, kids were dressed and I sat down to try and catch the weather amidst the usual sounds of morning chaos. Ruby came to sit in my lap and said, “I have a secret. No boys can hear it!” Then she whispered in my ear so that Sean couldn’t hear, “I want to pray to God with you. Let’s go.”

I turned off the TV and stayed right where I was, but she stood up and said, “Let’s go in your room to pray, and get your Bible because I’m going to teach you something about Jesus.” I was laughing to myself thinking how silly and sweet it was for Ruby to want to teach me about Jesus; then I looked down at her tiny hand leading me into God’s presence. God spoke to my heart right then, “This is how you come to me, this is how you accept My Word, this is how you enter my Kingdom. Like this little child.”

As we walked past the office I grabbed my pink Precious Moments Bible off the shelf. It’s the one my dad bought me when I turned 11 years old.  I opened it to show Ruby where I had written the date of my baptism and the date God had called me to be a missionary. She wasn’t very interested, but took the Bible from me and opened it up to Deuteronomy. After struggling to pronounce, “Dood-nor-mon-nomy” she moved on instead to the lesson from her heart. “Jesus is our father in Heaven.” She said, “He wants us to obey Him. He died for us.” I thanked her for sharing that Bible lesson. We prayed together, she thanked God for healing all the people and for all the churches around the world.

It is true that living under the constant influence of this world can leave a heart cold. It’s true that a spirit can grow battle weary and bitter. This is why throughout God’s Word we see a call to forsake the things of this world and pursue His presence. After the kids left for school, instead of whipping out my list of things I needed to catch up on, I stopped and thanked Jesus for using the tender heart of my daughter to lead me back to my first love. I pray my life won’t be a string of dead works, and instead bear good fruit as a result of a real and growing relationship with Jesus.

Do you remember your first love?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Battle Ready

"Y'all need to pray for me tonight 'cause I've got a big attitude!" This was the first prayer request of the night during Youth Bible Study three weeks ago on Sunday. Around the rest of the room we went to the 16- year- old mom with her baby in her lap who asked for prayer as she is grieving the loss of her aunt who was found face down in the driveway over the weekend. Then to the last young girl with her hand up who asked for prayer for her "whole life".

There were visitors, two girls who came to Wednesday night Bible study the week before. They didn't have any prayer requests but they wanted to know why the Bibles I handed out weren't the King James Version. It seemed unusual that these two young girls would be so concerned with what version of the Bible we were reading from, but I didn't pay too much attention to them. My heart was still heavy from the prayer request time and I was ready to take the requests to the Lord.

After we prayed, I assigned each girl a verse to look up in the Bible. They would each read their verse out loud as we walked through the lesson together. The two new girls said they didn't want to read a verse. "It's okay. You don't have to." I said. As soon as we started the lesson they began to ask questions about Jacob and Esau. They had looked up a list of names of tribes in the Bible and wanted me to explain why those tribes were considered enemies of God's people.

I gave short answers to their questions and promised the girls that we could do a more in-depth study together another time, since my lesson really didn't have to do with retracing the lineage of the Hittites. As I moved on and tried to get back on track one of the girls began mocking me and whispered to her friend, "She just doesn't want to say the truth!"

The girls continued to interrupt until finally I realized where they were coming from and the real reason why they were coming to Bible Study. They are members of the Hebrew Israelite cult and as far as they're concerned, as a white woman, I have no business teaching the Bible. They believe that only African Americans and other minorities are the chosen people of God. They were trying to make me see how "ignorant" I was to think that I could be a child of God without being born into their race or tribe. They continued to mock me, whisper and disrupt the time until finally, I just stopped.

I was 18 years old when I was put in charge of teaching my first class of inner city children. As the kids came through the door I knelt down and asked each one of them for their names to make their nametag. When the third little boy came through the door, I knelt down and asked his name. In response, he bit my thumb so hard that he drew blood. I dropped the marker and began to cry.

Seventeen years later and I don't remember being brought to tears while teaching a class since the "thumb-biting" incident; however, these girls managed to do it. The other girls in the group were desperately trying to pay attention. The weekly times of Bible study are a life- line for them and they didn't want our time to be wasted. The new girls refused to leave, insisting that they were there to learn. So, with my Bible open to the text I had prepared to teach on, I just began reading it aloud; then prayed and dismissed the group. On their way out the door the girls told me again how blind I was to the truth; then they left, and I stood by the door bewildered at all that had just happened. 

Sometimes I forget that there is a very real battle going on. The battle is not with these two teenage girls, rather an evil spirit who desires to overcome the love of Jesus with hate. This is why Paul tells us in Ephesians to be strengthened by the Lord and His vast strength. If we are going to be victorious over the sin and darkness in this world we are going to need the great strength of the Lord.

This week Russia has threatened to march in and take over the Ukrainian government. The whole world is watching in protest. "You can't do that!" we say. But they are doing it! They are parking their ships in Crimea and launching tanks full of battle ready soldiers. The Ukrainian government is not prepared for the battle and if no one comes to their defense they are destined to be overtaken by Russia. The picture in the news this week that said it all for me was of the fleet of broken down Ukrainian tanks, sunk into the sand and covered in moss.

That night, these girls had brought the battle to my front door and caught me unprepared.  What broke my heart was that part of me was just going through the motions of our Sunday night business. I hadn't spent time in prayer for the youth who might be coming to hear The Word, I hadn't asked God to speak through me. It is so easy to become comfortable and miss out on the victories that only come when we are humble before God, relying on His power to do the work that only He can do. The greatest weapons, at my disposal, of prayer and spiritual readiness were sunk in the distractions of my mind and bogged down by my self-reliance. Jesus, our commander, stands ready to engage His enemy today and everyday.  

Revelation 17:14 says, "These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with Him are called and elect and faithful."

Those of us who are in Christ are never defenseless. We are called to be faithful, His chosen servants. Chosen to carry out His work here on earth. The enemy is also at work, deceiving entire generations. Offering counterfeit and perverted versions of the blessed life that only comes through knowing Christ. By God's grace we will be riding with our victorious King on the day when Satan is conquered for all eternity.

As for today and until the Lord's return, we must do as Paul instructs in Ephesians 6:13, "This is why you must take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand."

Tonight is Bible Study night again. I hope those girls come back. I've been praying for them for three weeks that God would prepare me through His Spirit to speak the truth to them, and that they may be able to comprehend the Light of His Salvation.

Please pray with us at Truth that we will continue to have the boldness to carry out the work and that lives will be eternally changed.