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Ambassadors for Christ

ambassadors

This week has been a tough week for the United States. Between the bombing in Boston and the explosion in Texas, many people in this country are grieving and recovering from tragedy. For those of us in New England, the tragedy is still unfolding.

Personally, I know several people who were running in the marathon this past Monday, several more who were near the finish line cheering on the racers, plus I have friends and a couple of relatives that live within blocks of where the bombings occurred. Today, most of Boston and many of the surrounding communities were in lock-down. Although my place of work was open, many of the businesses around us were not. Several of our employees could not come in to work because they live in the lock down zone and were ordered to stay in their homes. Others could not come in because the entire MBTA (our public transportation system) was shut down. Even the taxi services weren’t running for a large part of the day. Although I live a bit outside of the area that is on lock down, I must have seen close to thirty police cars on my way to work. A co-worker sent me a picture of a soldier patrolling the street right outside her window. It is the type of thing that one might expect to see in a war zone, but not in our own backyards.

Yet in all of this, heroism and selflessness abound. It is important to remember that the love of God continues to flow in calamity. He continues to reach out through the hands and feet of countless ordinary citizens; volunteers, donators, EMTs, first responders, nurses, physicians, surgeons, and law enforcement. For every psychopath or terrorist, there are hundreds of compassionate hearts that are moved to action. We have all read the stories of every day citizens who came together to offer food, blankets or a hug to someone lost in their grief. We’ve seen the pictures of untrained hands pinching off the femoral artery to keep a victim from bleeding out. Perhaps we saw the list online of the thousands of people who offered their homes and a hot meal to those displaced in the tragedy. And let us not forget the police officers who ran towards the location of the blast (not knowing if there were more bombs that would go off), while everyone around them ran away. Or what about the doctor who was exhausted from having run and finished the 26.2 mile race? After the bombs went off he immediately ran to Mass General Hospital and within 90 seconds of arriving was scrubbed in to surgery. 48 hours later, that surgeon was still performing surgeries for the victims of the marathon. He was in surgery almost non-stop for over 48 hours after he had just run a marathon! There are heroes among us. Real people, living real lives. Tired, hurting, fallible people, who go beyond their normal physical and emotional limitations to reach out to those around them.

Those acts of heroism do not negate the grief or right the wrong, but they are reminders of love and humanity. Reminders we desperately need at times like this. When we grieve, God grieves with us. I believe He feels the pain that we feel. When we are hurting, He hurts with us. When Jesus walked the earth, He was filled with compassion and time and time again, He reached out to touch the sick and hurting. He brought restoration to people.

As believers, it is our job to represent Jesus on this earth. The enemy wants us to be immobilized by fear, but God wants us to be mobilized to serve!

People can serve without knowing Christ, but can we truly know Christ without serving? If we claim to know Him, we should be on the front lines of service. When horror strikes close to home, it is then that our friends and neighbors need us the most. I want to encourage all of us to serve one another in humility and love. Reach out to the hurting, donate to the destitute, offer a couch to the displaced, pray for the grieving. Be His hands and His feet and His mouth and His listening ear.

Be an ambassador for Christ.

In His Love,

Rebekah L

Spreading Love

Darkness

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

In the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School there are more questions than answers. There is anger and bitterness. There are political debates. There are little hands to hold and fears to be faced. There are funerals to attend.

Many of us have desired to help the hurting and found ourselves at a loss as to how to go about it. People all over this country have grieved for those they have never met. How do you help someone you don’t even know? When you can’t help those directly affected you feel powerless. But the Bible reminds us not to be overcome by evil, but instead, let us overcome evil with good. Let us honor the memory of those precious children and heroic teachers by consciously adding good to the world.

A woman in a parking lot in Altoona, Pennsylvania received an anonymous Christmas card on Saturday that said, “How do you fight evil in this world. You fight it with good. This act of kindness is in memory of a child who lost his/her life yesterday. Make the world a better place. Do good and Merry Christmas.” The anonymous person left a $10 bill in the card. The woman said that it was the best Christmas gift she had ever received and she vowed to pay it forward. You can watch the original news story here.

I want to encourage people to make a mindful contribution to this world and to people in particular. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate; it can be as simple as leaving $10 and a few kind words for a stranger. It’s not about a material gift; it’s about affecting the spiritual realm by combating evil with good. Don’t be afraid to extend kindness to a stranger. Don’t be embarrassed to tell someone you care about how much you love them. Remember to hug people and tell them they are valued. Small things can really brighten someone’s day.

Here are few ideas to get you started:

  • Offer to pray for someone.
  • Present a smile to a stranger, even if they scowl at you.
  • At the toll booth, pay the toll for the car behind you.
  • Leave change at a vending machine for the next person to find.
  • Hold the door open for people.
  • Donate used books/furniture/clothing to someone in need.
  • Visit a nursing home.
  • Rake/shovel/mow your neighbor’s yard before they come home from work.
  • Leave a dollar where a child will find it.
  • Bring treats to work for co-workers.
  • Go on Amazon.com and buy a random person something off their wish list.
  • Call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  • Make a conscious effort to not complain about anything for an entire day.
  • Buy the meal/coffee for the person behind you in the drive-through.
  • Send a thank you card to someone who has been a positive influence in your life.
  • Let the person behind you in line at the grocery store go ahead of you.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen or donate canned goods and other staples to people in need.
  • Slip a $25 gas card in someone’s bag or on their windshield.
  • Buy a few extra umbrellas and on a rainy day go out and distribute them to people who are walking without one.
  • Send a letter to a store complimenting one of the employees. Letters of complaint are the norm; positive letters are rare and can really make a big difference in someone’s job.

I could list many more ideas, but you get the picture. One caution, it is easier to remember to do these sorts of things around Christmastime or around tragedies. I want to encourage people (myself included) to make this a regular habit, not something that is only done once a year. I’d even go so far as to suggest you schedule it into your life. Yeah, I know that scheduling it makes it sound sterile and like I’m taking all of the spontaneity out of it, but if you set up an alert on your outlook calendar, email, or cell phone that periodically reminds you to do this sort of thing, you can be sure that it will go beyond the Christmas season. If this sort of thing is new to you, then maybe you only set up your alert for every six months or so. If you’re feeling more venturous, set up an alert to remind you to do an act of kindness once a month, or once a week! Before long, you’ll notice opportunities even when you haven’t had an alert and it will become more organic over time. Ask God to open doors for you and to show you where you can be of assistance to someone or ask God to send you opportunities just to make someone’s day. You can be sure He will!

The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8)The best way to show people God is not by using well-crafted words, it’s by showing His love working through us. Spread love.

In His Love,

Rebekah L.

When Sadness Creeps In

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

Often times as Christians we feel pressured to always exhibit a happy demeanor. A sad Christian is a failing Christian. Or so we’re led to believe. As Christians we celebrate verses of Scripture that tell us to rejoice in Him. We know that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).  We know that the “joy of the Lord” is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) and that a “merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Proverbs 17:22). But what happens when that merry heart is not so easy to find? What do we do as Christians when sadness creeps in?

Before I became a Christian I struggled with depression. There were periods in my life where I found it challenging to get out of bed in the morning or to make it through a daily routine. I was put on and taken off of several different anti-depressants over the years. I was plagued by suicidal thoughts. I self-injured on a number of occasions. I tried to self-medicate with substances. Meeting Christ changed all of that for me. When I met Him, I learned what it was to have joy unspeakable!  I was set free from debilitating depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and consuming thoughts of suicide. Praise the Lord!!

But sometimes, I still fall into sadness. It’s nothing like the debilitating depression I had before knowing Him, but I have a tendency not to share this with people because I feel guilty about it. I feel since the Lord has freed me from so much I don’t have a right to feel sad. Ever. I feel selfish when feelings of sadness come on.  Sometimes I let the enemy condemn me for the feelings I have. Or I beat myself up using Scriptures that admonish me to be content with what I have or by reminding myself of people who have many more trials than I do. The trouble is that because I have such negative feelings about sadness, I have a tendency to not deal with them. I try to sweep them under the rug and forget about them.  The problem is that in not dealing with these feelings they actually gain greater control. The best way to move beyond sadness is to acknowledge it and then give it to God.

I’ve come to realize that sadness is a part of life. It’s natural to feel sad when we lose a loved one, go through a break-up, see someone hurting, or watch a dear friend move away. The Lord Himself knew what it was like to experience sadness. He wept in front of Lazarus’ tomb.  In the book of Isaiah, the Bible describes the coming Lord as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). The Lord knows what it is to be sad.

David knew what it was to be sad too. He said, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief” (Psalm 31:9-10). In another place in the Bible, David is recorded as saying, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? (Psalm 42:5). There are many recorded examples of sadness in the Bible. Jeremiah was referred to as the “weeping profit”. Nehemiah was so sad that the king himself asked him what was wrong. Job knew grief, as did Solomon. Isaiah was so depressed he prayed to die!

If you are reading this and your countenance is down, know that you are not alone! You are in good company. You don’t have to pretend to be happy if you aren’t. It doesn’t make you less of a Christian, it simply makes you human. I have found that although I still fall into sadness at times that it doesn’t have to last long if I am consistent about handing it over to God.

You don’t have to feel anxious or ashamed of your emotions, but you do need to deal with them.  If sadness has crept in on you the first thing you need to do is to acknowledge it. Then you need to search your heart to see if there is any chance the sadness is connected to sin present in your life. If it is, repent and ask God to help keep you from falling into that sin in the future. Once we take care of sin, there are a couple of very helpful things we can do to move beyond sadness.  Below are a few of the things I have found helpful in my own walk with God.

In the natural:

  • Exercise – I have found nothing better than exercise for chasing away the blues.
  • Healthy Eating – Eating clean, healthy food the way God intended it.
  • Sleep – Adequate sleep is invaluable to our emotional well-being.

In the spiritual:

  • Thanksgiving – Having a heart of gratitude will do wonders for moving beyond sadness. When we focus on all the things we have to be thankful for, we don’t have time to focus on the things that bring us down!
  • Giving – Giving of our time and resources to those less fortunate than ourselves takes the focus off of our circumstances and on to others.
  • Worship – Again, this gets the focus off of us, and on to Him! He is our everything. He deserves our worship in the good times and in the sad times. The more we worship Him, the more He envelops us in His presence. It’s really hard to stay sad when you are in the presence of Almighty God!

If you’ve tried all that and it seems that none of it is working, don’t despair.  Keep giving it to God (1 Peter 5:7) and keep worshiping Him. Allow Him to work in you and through you. Remind yourself that even the mighty men of God in the Bible experienced sadness, loneliness, and depression. Never give up on God; He will never give up on you. 

In His Love,

-Rebekah L.

Getting Closer to Him

As Christians we must learn to walk in spirit and truth. A Christian cannot stand in one place; we are either moving closer to Him or further from Him. Therefore, it is vital that we never stop growing in God. In my own life, these last few weeks have been a wonderful time of restoration and growth in Him. There is nothing like kneeling down in prayer and not just hoping or wishing or thinking or feeling, but truly knowing you are connecting with your Creator.

God desires a closer relationship with each one of us.  It is essential to remember that God supplies the spiritual fire, but we must tend to the flames. A campfire needs kindling to be started, and logs to burn. If we do not keep watch and add wood as the fire burns, it will go out. It is like that in the spirit. It’s not enough to have a one time spiritual experience with God and expect the flames to continue to burn indefinitely without any input from us. A relationship is a two way street; even with God. We give what we can, and God supplies the rest. Do not be mistaken, God provides far more than we ever could and more than we deserve. Salvation is a free gift and there isn’t anything in this world we could do to deserve it. But a relationship takes two individuals being committed to do what is necessary to maintain it. If we do not do the things we know to do to keep the spiritual fire burning, it will perish. In my personal walk, I have been leaning on the things I know to do to grow in my relationship with Him. These are simple things that we all know to do, but we can get lax in them at times. If we put these seven suggestions into practice, God will reward us by giving us deeper insight into who He is, and greater understanding of His unending love.

Seven Steps to a Closer Relationship with God:

  1. Continue regular fellowship with other believers and attendance of church and church related activities. The bible is clear that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and He has set leadership over us for a reason. It is very difficult to navigate this journey alone. God designed us to be part of the Body of Christ.
  2. Make reading, studying and memorizing Scripture a priority in your life. This is an area where a lot of us could use improvement. I know personally, I am not disciplined enough with my bible reading. The written Word is the known will of God! If you are wondering what God’s will is in your life, reading His Word is the perfect place to start.
  3. Commit to deeper prayer. To know God, you must be in communication with Him. In my own life there is not a day that goes by where I don’t pray. Yet, If I am honest I have to admit that there are many days where my prayer is very “surface”.  As Christians we need breakthrough prayer to be the rule and not the exception.
  4. It is time to start fasting regularly. If you want to be open to God’s leading and open to Christian growth, you will need to weaken the flesh and strengthen the spirit. Fasting seems to be one of the best ways to do that. My ability to focus on Him improves dramatically during times of fasting.
  5. Minimize ungodly influences from the outside world. By this I mean consuming less television, secular music, movies, video games, facebook etc… The bible says we are in the world, not of the world.
  6. Live more Christlike. One sure way to get to know Him better is to model yourself after Him more. We need to give like He gives and love like He loves.
  7. Never never forget what He has done for you. Always come to Him with praise and thanksgiving in your heart and above all else seek Him first!

Jesus is our everything! Keep this fire burning… dare not let it go out!

~Rebekah L.

True Forgiveness

“Get along with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.” ~Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. A sneaky thing, even. We know we’re supposed to give it, and give it freely. It’s our Christian duty to do so. So we do – or so we say. We try to be the bigger the person. But look at your language for a second. Do you ever refer to someone by the act they committed against you? In conversation, or even in your head? Ever think, “that girl, the one who ____”, or “<insert name here>, that ex, the one who dumped me after ______”? Think through the tough things you’ve been through in your life, and the people involved. How do you think of them now – really think of them?

See, we can’t just say the words. Forgiveness is indeed a word, and if we only forgive on the surface that’s all it will ever be. But we are called to do more than just say the words. Why? Because the Lord forgave you. Whatever you did in your past. Whatever addictions you had, whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever you have done that even your best friends and family and partners in crime don’t know about….God knows. And He forgives you.

What does that mean? Well, if you’ve confessed to God, it means that when you go to judgement day to be held accountable for your time here on earth, there’s a lot of dirt on you that won’t actually be written down. You may even think to yourself “but what about the time I _____?” It’s not in there, because Jesus Christ washed it away with His blood. He is your Savior and this is exactly why. True forgiveness is complete, instant, and eternal. It means that the sins you’ve accrued don’t even make it into your judgement book. It means that even if you got up to heaven and asked God Himself “what about the time I ____?”, He’d say “what are you talking about?” He washes you clean the instant you repent and confess. He can restore innocence. He can’t take away consequences of your actions…..but He can forgive them. And once He does, they don’t come back to haunt you.

Is that the level of forgiveness we freely give to others? All the time?  I doubt it. But you can. And here’s how. Instead of just saying to yourself, ‘I forgive ____’, say it to God. Search your life and your heart for old wounds, even when they involve people you’ve thought you’ve forgiven. Then, name those people to God. Literally say the words. “I forgive _____. God, I forgive them, in the precious name of Jesus, I forgive them now. You forgave me when I didn’t deserve it, and I will not deny it from someone else. I won’t fall into that trap. I forgive them with all my heart and soul.” Take it a step further and tell God what the situation was, and tell Him outright that you’re letting it go now because the time for forgiveness has come. By the way, don’t worry about speaking formally, or quoting me verbatim if you have a different way to say it. Don’t worry about feeling or sounding cheesy – you don’t. These words are beautiful in God’s ears, and you are made by Him. So the feelings you feel and the way you pray and speak to Him…..you’re only being who He made you to be. So talk to Him freely.

Anyway, I put this forgiveness thing to the test the other day. Some of the things I dredged up  I thought were already forgiven and dealt with. Some were years old. Some even required me to forgive myself. And the coolest part was, as soon as I said the words to God that I was letting go and in faith and obedience to Him I was forgiving, He gave the strength to do it. When I told Him that I forgave, He lifted the hurt away. It was gone. It was like it never happened. I literally felt lighter.

I can’t speak for what God will do all the time, but I do know that the freedom I feel now is worth trying for. Don’t settle for superficial forgiveness. Don’t settle for a life that still has you wrestling with your past in weak moments. Forgive others and forgive yourself. And do it on a soul-deep level. Bring God into it, and He will help you to take it beyond the words. For me, I think what I meant when I said to God “I forgive” was that I wanted to forgive and was ready to let it go. But He honestly did the rest. He helped share the emotional load and He helped with the actual forgiveness part. It was like handing God the keys to the garbage truck and watching Him drive away the junk, leaving me new and clean and fresh. It was amazing. And so I beg you to try it.  Please. And if you want any extra prayer support, email me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. Everyone needs extra prayer support, right?

To every reader of this blog: put God to the test in this area, let your past go, and feel the lightness and growth and closeness to God that comes instantly afterwards. When you truly let go, you’ll get a glimpse of how deep your own salvation is in God’s eyes. I pray that you get to feel that. God bless, and know that I am praying for each and every one of you to find true forgiveness and peace, for others in your life and also for yourself.

~Rebekah A

The Blessing Of Unworthiness

“Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you not see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” ~Luke 7:44-47

If you read Luke 7 in its entirety, you’ll see that Jesus is dining at the house of a Pharisee when a woman comes in. She’s a sinner. We don’t know what her sins are; perhaps like so many of us, she has too many to be classified by just one. Jesus even refers to her many sins in the above verse. When she comes in, she merely stays at His feet. His presence moves her to tears, and she uses them to wash his feet. She uses her hair to dry them, and then pours out her perfume on them.

Pouring out perfume doesn’t seem all that significant, but usually perfume was valuable. There were no banks or money at the time. Her perfume may have been her whole inheritance, or possibly for her what the contents of our bank account would be for us. And how did she use her treasure? By pouring it onto the feet of a stranger.

Her attention to Jesus was met with criticism from one of the Pharisees. He allowed it to spark doubt in his mind, thinking ‘if this man were a true prophet, he’d see what a sinner she is.’ Not only did he doubt Jesus’ wisdom, but he judged this woman by her sins and deemed her unworthy to be in the presence of Jesus.

Jesus’ response is the verse I quoted above.

At first glance, the Pharisee has a point. This woman was a sinner. She had no greatness in her that made her worthy of Jesus Christ. What did she have? A desire to be in His presence. A desire so strong that when she came before she was moved to tears. And it was enough. Jesus didn’t turn her away. He didn’t judge her for her sins or tell her she was unclean or unworthy. He saw her desire to be with Him. Regardless of her lifestyle, regardless of her sins or dirt, He saw the sincerity of her desire and the sincerity of her tears. He saw her love for Him. And it was enough. She didn’t need to confess or clean herself or change her clothes or renounce her lifestyle. She came before Him just as she was. And for Jesus, that was enough. She, a sinner, who had no merit but the love and desire of her heart, was enough for Him. And she was welcome in His presence.

So am I, and so are you. We don’t have to dress up, or look a certain way, or get our lives together first. We don’t need to pass ‘Go’ and collect $200 first. We just need to show up, exactly as we are, with whatever we have to give. So often, we let our circumstances push us away from God. It’s almost like we’re thinking “God I didn’t really live up to Your expectations today, so I’m not going to spend time with you today. See you tomorrow.” As if we can hide! But for some reason we think that way. We think we need to be worthy or to redeem ourselves first. And that’s not how it works. We, the sinners and the unworthy, are welcome in the presence of Jesus any time. If we desire to go to Him, we can. Praise God for that. How many kings do you know who let the common beggars into their courts at any time they wanted to enter? How many beggars would be allowed to formally go before their king while still dressed in their rags? Yet that’s exactly what Jesus does for us – He is there, His door is open, and we are welcome exactly as we are.

As for this woman, maybe it was the peace of His presence, so unlike the tumultuous world around us, that moved her so powerfully. Maybe she had a moment of true repentance. Maybe she felt His love, and perhaps was unfamiliar with love of that magnitude. I’m not sure. All I know is that His presence had such an effect on her that she was weeping at His feet. She didn’t even need to look upon His face or make eye contact to feel the holiness of Him. She wept at His feet. Then she used those tears to wait on Him. She washed His feet. She used her own hair to dry them. She didn’t have water or a cloth; we don’t how affluent she was, but either way it wasn’t her home so she certainly didn’t have it on hand. She was so moved that she gave everything she had: her tears, and her hair. And then she gave Him the one thing of material value that she did have on hand – her perfume. However hard she’d worked, whatever she’d done to earn it, paled in comparison to Jesus. And so, onto His feet the perfume went.

That’s an amazing story, when you think about it. This was not a woman who went in for righteousness and lots of time at the church. This was probably not a woman who gave much thought to tithing, and possibly not much thought to God. Maybe she had an underlying desire to live a different life, but she came to Him a sinner. So clearly, whatever her underlying desire was, nothing had sufficiently moved her to change yet. Her sinful self, with that underlying desire to be in the presence of Jesus, was enough to get her in the door. Not until she was in the presence of God did she know that this was more valuable than her perfume. And she was right. His presence brought out the best in her, and she waited on Him with love in her heart. She loved Him instantly, and strongly enough to give her wealth to his feet. He, in turn, gave her forgiveness. You know what comes with forgiveness: renewal, peace, salvation even. He gave her a new life. He even brings it one step further by saying that he who has been forgiven little loves little. What He means is, it’s because this woman is a sinner that she is moved so much. It’s because she is ‘unworthy’ that His acceptance and forgiveness is that much more powerful to her. His strength truly is perfected in our weakness.

Let’s praise God for that. A new life waits for us in His presence. In His presence and in His love is a life more valuable than any material possession we have. Whether we have nothing but our own tears and hair, or whether we have priceless perfume, He has more for us.

So I invite you today to go to Him. Bring yourself even further into His presence. Forget the cares of the day or mistakes you’ve made; forget how you look. Just go to Him. Give Him what you have, be it little or much, and see what He gives your spirit in return.

God bless!

~Rebekah A

And just to inspire you more, here’s a song that’s in my head today:

 

Around the Corner/At the Alter

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. ~ Ps 37:4

Lately, I just haven’t been able to shake the feeling that God has my future husband right around the corner.  No, I don’t think I’m going to get married in a split second (LOL!) but something in me just keeps feeling like “Isaac is almost here, you’re about to meet Isaac.”  And so I can’t help but wonder: how much of this is me and how much of this is God? All I do know is that I have to continue to just keep giving it back to God, for if it is true and real and of Him, then it will come to pass. For when my God says “it is so” then it. is. so.

In all this though, I can’t help but keep wondering about everything that surrounded my past relationship, especially since I’ve been in the city where he and I had our first few dates.  When I think of my ex and his friends, I can’t help but feel like God is going to punish for what they did to me.  His friends, who had claimed to be my friends, cut me off. Never asked if I was doing okay. Never bothered to find out my side of the story.  I even wished two of them a happy mother’s day and they never responded. How can you be like that and call yourself a follower of Christ? Would it really hurt to be a human being and just say “thank you, I hope you’re doing well too!”  However, I know that JESUS knows what happened and JESUS is my witness and my God. More than that, I keep feeling like God is pushing into my heart to learn to love like He does- unconditionally.  LONG before we reciprocated, He loved us and died for us anyhow. So it makes me all the more determined to strive to pour love out around me and look to JESUS as the source of unending love that can, through Him, continually pour out. If it never is sent back, so be it- I pray they are blessed regardless. If it is, to God be the glory for giving me good people in my life.

Today the sermon was about leaving it all at the alter and how we need an alter in our daily life.  We need to give Christ our lives daily and it is at the alter that our lives are  altered. And so, I gave the whole thing back to God today and realized, with joy, that I had nothing really to give about my ex but it has been the hurt from his friends cutting me off that I had to give to Him.  What a wonderful, mighty God that we serve that 6 months after everything, I can now say with honesty that yes, there is slight residual I mean- he was my first kiss, handhold, and I thought I was marrying him (esp after he said he already picked the ring out and had originally picked out a day to propose)- BUT I can pass the places where we had dates and our first kiss and still, I am okay and not only that, I can give God glory for full emotional healing.  God brought me to this city to show me His wonderful, cleansing power.  He has cleaned me from my past so that my future Isaac can make an appearance… and it’s right around the corner…

Rebekah M. 

Serving Without Measure

A few days ago, I posted about how God was telling me to leave my worldly measuring stick behind and to just love people the way He does, in whatever capacity I can. Today, I’m expanding on that a little bit, just because I think our God is so amazing when it comes to this.

When we think of ‘giving’, we think of it as a voluntary thing. To be a giver is something desirable. When we think of a ‘servant’, we think of someone who is forced into that lifestyle. We think of people were abducted and forced into slavery or something.  We as Christians are also called to be servants, but our obligation is not due to force; it’s due to love. We are free to choose it or not. Still, having made such a choice, it’s no less obligatory.

Let’s think about that for a second. Think of servants – true slaves. They don’t get to pick and choose what tasks they’ll be doing that day.  They don’t get to pick and choose when they’ll serve. They have to be available every moment and they have to do what they’re told. They don’t get to say “I’m tired today, I’ll take a nap.” Or even “I’m tired today, maybe I’ll do the laundry instead of the yardwork.” No. They work where they’re needed, when they’re needed, and often they’re under-appreciated for all they do.

It doesn’t sound like it’s all that fun. However, that is the choice we make when we choose to follow Jesus. Jesus was GOD. He was GOD. And so often, He’d throw away His Godly power in order to be humble and to literally be a constant servant. He taught, He healed, He preached….He was busy. His followers used to worry about Him being so busy. They’d tell Him to stop and rest; they’d tell Him to stop and eat. He’d refuse. His philosophy? He was doing the work of His Father, and so His Father would sustain Him through it. There are several references to Him being tired. He served anyway.

He was right (of course He was!). His Father sustained Him. He gave without ceasing. He had a choice. He choose to give and give because that’s how much He loved us. When we make that same choice, to serve at our own expense, we in turn are showing just how much we love Him and want to emulate Him and spread His love here on earth. And when we do that, when we follow the path God sets us on, God sustains us. He knows when we’re at our breaking point; He won’t push us past it. He’ll bless us when we need it, and provide for us when we need it. All we need to do is make that choice to serve without measuring how hard we’re working or whether or not we want to.

And really, it’s not that much of a choice. Jesus gave endlessly, exhausting Himself and ultimately undergoing torture and death so that I, Rebekah A, would have eternal salvation. He did the same for you. And we are not given eternal salvation, this choice to follow Jesus and live by His example, so that we can pick and choose when to do so. When we choose God, it’s an eternal choice. It’s a choice to give of ourselves when we can. It’s a choice to pick up the cross. Yes we may make mistakes. We fall. But we don’t get to put the cross down. Jesus had help at one point carrying His cross. We’re allowed help too. We don’t have to go it alone, and we don’t have to martyr ourselves. But we don’t get to put it down.  God can temporarily take it from us to give us rest. But when we choose God, and we choose Jesus and the salvation and love that comes with Him, we also choose His lifestyle and we choose to walk on His path. It’s a path of love and peace, but not always one of convenience. And that’s so important for us to remember, because there are no coincidences under God. Every person who crosses your path, crosses your path for a reason. God can use you in every instance. How many chances are we missing because we’re ‘too tired’ or ‘not in the mood’?

So today readers, I ask you to not only lay down your measuring sticks when it comes to your relationships, but lay it down when it comes to actions. Your only starting point should be when God says ‘go’, and your only finish line should be when God says ‘stop.’ He’ll take care of you; you’ll see. And while He’s at it, He’ll move in amazing ways in your life. After all, He loves you just as much as He loves the people He tells you to serve!!

God bless!

~Rebekah A

 

Leaving My Measuring Stick

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” ~Matthew 7:1-2

This scripture, or really all of Matthew 7, really hits home. In fact, I was talking about it with a friend the other day. I was realizing all at once just how flawed my servanthood is.  See, I try to have the heart of a servant (as we should!) and I suppose I do. But it isn’t a constant heart.  I’ll give – either time, prayer, food, whatever it is I can give to bless a person. And at some point I expect that to be reciprocated in kind. I get frustrated when it isn’t. Then I complain.

The law of common sense says ‘you get what you give.’ It’s human nature to expect it and desire it. But when we expect appreciation and support from people for doing things we’re supposed to do anyway (we are called to be servants, after all), and don’t receive it, it can trigger bitterness in us and can even start to affect that relationship. And really, it makes no sense to apply human nature here; you can’t use worldly standards to measure God’s work and calling. It just won’t add up. Serving someone the way Jesus said to, and by Jesus’ example, and using my human measuring stick to determine that the person I served should now turn around and bless me….well that’s just silly. The concept of having the heart of a servant is all over the place in the Bible. The concept of serving only when it’s reciprocated is nowhere. When Rebekah watered all those camels at the well and spent hours doing so, was she measuring how much she would get in return from this elderly servant? No. She helped without measure, as she was called to.

A few days ago I posted about a friend who has had a lot going on, and how no matter how much time and prayer I gave to her, I felt like when I needed prayer, I was brushed aside. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was thinking in terms of ‘she always ____’ or ‘she never ____’. I was generalizing. And it wasn’t fair. After all, how many mistakes have I made in the eyes of the Lord? How many times have I put God second or pushed Him farther back on my to-do list that day? And yet, for all that, is Jesus really holding up a measuring stick to my faith? Is He measuring how small my steps are today compared to what they were yesterday? Or how far to the right or left my focus is, rather than on the straight and narrow path He’s set before me? No. He isn’t. He may temporarily, just to bring it to my awareness what I’m doing. But as soon as I repent and bring my focus back in, He simply applauds me for coming back on track.

And yet, here I am, holding this measuring stick up to the friendship of a person who, like me, is only human. We’re flawed.  And our flaws come with us when we sit at God’s table.  It’s not up to us to decide who ranks better or what somebody ‘should’ be doing or how we ‘should’ be treated. Should Jesus have been crucified and tortured? Of course not – He didn’t deserve it. But He took it. And in spite of what He went through to save me, and in spite of the horribly poor job I do at repaying Him, He loves me. There is no condemnation in Him when I make mistakes, only forgiveness and love. My steps have been guided by Him today, but not measured. Neither should I measure anyone else’s.

So I am trying to break this habit of score-keeping when it comes to giving. My serving and blessing someone should have nothing to do with whether they’re serving and blessing me.  I’ve actually started looking at it as a training ground. If I can’t serve a fellow Christian (someone who will pray with me when I’m dragging and faltering), how can I ever go out and serve others? Jesus, give me Your heart for this world. Help me to keep focused on Your eyes alone, and let the fire I see in them burn up my worldly measuring tools. No tool I have can show me Your work. So God, keep my eyes on You and give me a heart that takes joy in blessing others as you have so abundantly blessed me. I love You, Jesus, and in Your name I pray.

I invite you, readers, to take a second and think about what measuring sticks you’re holding. Go through your relationships – friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers – and look hard at the dynamic of the relationship. Is there someone you’re not inclined to do favors for because you know they won’t do the same to you? Is there someone you are frequently frustrated with because you give and they seem like a ‘taker’? Anyone in your life you’d classify as a mooch? Take a hard look at these relationships, and submit them with me to the Lord.  Ask Him for His heart for each of these people, and to bless you with a generous spirit for them in spite of how they appear. Drop the measuring sticks once and for all. Lay them at the Lord’s feet and allow Him to take over and dictate how you serve – when, whom, and how often.

Our Savior was the ultimate example of this, and gave the ultimate gift. Compared to Him and what He did for us, neither we or our friends are all that great. Or all that generous. And He isn’t measuring us. So it’s time to stop measuring each other!

I’d love to pray for you in this and anything else God is doing in your life – write to me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. God bless!

~Rebekah A

All About the Love

“Christianity is the cancer of humankind.”

These jarring words came at me from a friend. He’s a friend who has been let down by life; he has a terminal illness (duchenne muscular dystrophy) and has been hospital-bound for 22 years and surrounded by ‘support’ who really just play emotional head games with him and beat him down as much as possible; he has no real immediate family and little support from his extended family (though they live close by)….and all he knows of God and Christianity seems to be every negative fact about Catholicism, any news stories of the Westboro Baptist church (you know who I’m talking about – that church that crashes the funerals of fallen soldiers and has a website called godhatesfags.com), and a healthy dose of polygamy thrown in. Given that, I can’t exactly blame the guy for not having a very positive view of Christians.

I could make the argument, I suppose, that the whole reason he and I are friends is because I am a Christian.  I volunteered with a muscular dystrophy charity and meant a woman whose son had passed away a few months earlier. In reaching out to her, I realized she in turn was reaching out to anyone and everyone who had this disease and made it to adulthood – a milestone her own son had never reached. She was on the phone with this particular man and handed the phone to me – we lived relatively close to each other. I talked to him for about 2 minutes, and the next day did the obligatory Facebook friending. Seeing his profile on facebook, I realized it was his birthday and nobody had visited, celebrated, or (worst of all, in my opinion) brought cake. This is a cardinal sin in my book. Ignore a person all you want; do not deprive them of their birthday cake (I have excellent birthday priorities).

So, I made a cake. I got together a birthday dinner, and without ever having met this gentleman in person, went to visit him in the hospital where he lived, and threw him a party. I proceeded to visit him every week after that, and learned his medical care and emergency procedures so that he could leave the hospital with me and we could go to a Red Sox. It was the first time he’d been out with a friend in 20 years. He enjoyed himself during those visits, so much so that he started referring to me as his best friend. His friend. Suddenly, he’s forgotten all of that and decided that I’m cancerous.

Am I offended? No. Honestly. I am sad though. I mean, it takes a lot of pain and anger to negate birthday cake. Especially chocolate cake!!! Pain, anger, hate, sadness, and more….I wouldn’t wish that mindset on anybody. So, rather than defend my pride to you (which I’m not supposed to have anyway), let’s back up a bit. Why did I do all that for him? Not because I’m nice or special (if you’ve been reading this blog at all you know I am not that nice at all), but because Jesus wanted to bless this man. Jesus knew he needed a friend. I didn’t think of it like that exactly – my walk with God was a little bit different back then – but even so, I still believed that it is my calling to love people unconditionally, and to give to them and bless them as much as I can. I didn’t use that time or those visits as a stepping stone to proclaim the name of Jesus. Maybe I should have. It didn’t occur to me, honestly. Like I said, my walk was different then.

Still, today I am sure there is a testimony in there somewhere. I did good things for this person, and there is no good in me apart from Jesus Christ. When you tap into it, your ‘good’ can be extraordinary.

However, those aren’t the words that my friend needs to hear right now. He hears all these stories about God’s word twisted into something ugly, and then his Christian friends argue that that’s a false portrayal and Jesus isn’t really like that – that’s great (and true) but it still doesn’t say who Jesus IS. And how can you tell someone who has been so defeated by life that there is a love out there of that magnitude, and that it’s focused on him? To him, hearing that sounds like a crock.

My heart breaks for him and his hatred of God and his emotional pain. I pray for him regularly. I wish I could help him tap into God’s love, even to get just a glimpse of that peace. Then I realize: I can. I can’t exactly tell him  “Jesus is great, give Him a chance and pray to Him sometime”. Actually, I’ve tried that, and I’ve had friends try it too; all it does is shove more religion down his throat that he doesn’t want, and then he shuts down and says he doesn’t want to waste his time. Clearly, his heart is not going to be won by reason or logic or argument, or any words at all.

Yes, we are supposed to boldly proclaim Jesus to the world. It’s one of our callings as Christians. But a bold proclamation doesn’t always mean a verbal one. After all, how do you describe light to the darkness? It’s a totally foreign concept – like explaining colors to a person who is blind. Reason, logic, these are things formed around what he knows, and what he knows is spiritual darkness. But what I can do is love him. I can be God’s vessel. God is love, and forgiveness, and peace – unconditional, unending amounts of them. Not because a person deserves them, but because he exists. He was made by God, so he has an inherent value. It is that simple.

I will continue to pray for him and that God would open his heart – maybe someday the time and place will come for actual conversations. In the meantime, ‘bold’ to me will mean being with him, a source of love and peace and positivity in the face of all the anger and pain he has….’bold’ means listening to the suicidal lyrics of his heavy death metal music that he listens to during every waking hour, and daring to negate them by telling him that his life is worth something. ‘Bold’ can be as simple as love in the face of hate, peace in the face of chaos. I don’t have to preach; nor do I have to hide the fact that I’m keeping him in prayer or that all the good in me is really Jesus Christ. I don’t have to hide or push at all. I simply have to love. God is quite capable of the rest.

I ask you that this week, before you start your day, say a prayer that God’s love and peace will prevail today. That it would flow through you and touch anybody who’s in need of it on a deeper level. Maybe you can even make this a habit. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about any similar stories you have, or even just what God is doing in your life. So write to me at being.rebekah.a@gmail.com. God bless!!

~Rebekah A