lift

Arguments, confrontation and walls so thick that a wrecking ball wouldn’t be able to break it down…it drives me crazy when believers fight.

I get that family members have fights, especially when we are passionate people. But what does that show non-believers if we can’t get along? Would you want to be a part of a movement that shows hate toward each other?

That does not draw people to the heart of God…that propels them away with lightening speed, never to look back again. And we wonder why so many Americans have an ugly view of the church.

My heart breaks the most when fights are over petty things. If it is not a salvation issue, let it go. Seriously….so many times faith gets turned into religion, the church looks ugly and the message we are supposed to be delivering is completely invalidated.

God meant it to be beautiful, and then we get in the way. Silly humans. So much for being in His image.

Many times we get caught up in ourselves, and struggle to identify what are really areas of selfishness that we refuse to deal with. Our refusal of honestly revealing those areas are causing God’s message to suffer.

IMG_3840We are meant to deliver the message of God. We are meant to be a physical extension of his truth, love and compassion…yet we verbally beat each other up just to be ‘right.’ It’s not about you. It’s always about Him. His mission. His Kingdom. His holiness.

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. [1 Timothy 2:8]

Yah…me, too, Paul…here’s to all believers lifting holy hands, and laying down the verbal machetes. Please, for the good of God’s mission…confront yourself, and lay down the machete.

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cover

‘Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.’ [1 Peter 2:16]

As believers in this day and age I think we cover up a lot of things…sin, real-self, feelings…I could go on…

But as we walk in this world we need to be making sure what we are covering up isn’t our belief in life beyond this world. That we are not covering up our faith with the expectations of our American culture. That we are not covering up the things we want to teach our children with excuses of sports and other curricular activities.

We are meant to walk on this earth for a reason, and it is a lot of fun to take advantage of the things in this world.

But not at the expense of our commitment to Jesus, because he has a lot of something for you to do here and now. As a believer, as a family and as a community.

image

I actually wrote this post by lantern light, because our power had gone out because of a snowstorm.

My mission journal has a myriad of thoughts in it. It also looks cool, African cool, but if I kept all of the things I’ve learned at conferences, from Bible study and the books I am reading for myself…what good are those thoughts?

The point is to get beyond the cover, allow people in…and let them see what God has taught you. It is the exact same with our belief in Christ…his sacrifice…his message…

It is meant to be shared and not kept to yourself. That does mean grabbing ahold of some courage…because this world has wandered further and further away from the heart of God. But that also means we get to share truth, love and offer ourselves as guides…as servants of the living God.

injustice

I will never forget how God started pointing me to his scriptures on ‘justice.’ I printed off every scripture that had the word ‘justice’ in it and started going through them one-by-one. Granted it only lasted about 3 months…but God started me on a journey with it and marked me with Isaiah 58.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday. [Isaiah 58:9-10]

Is 58

I am thankful every day for this journey of moving closer to God’s heart. I am even more thankful for the moments he has opened my eyes to the injustice that makes him angry, too.

It is evil.

It is wrong.

It is painful.

It makes me livid.

It makes me angry.

It is uncomfortable.

It is heart-wrenching.

I don’t want to live blind to the injustice in the world, and your comfort shouldn’t convince you that that your eyes should remain shrouded.

Choose to fight with God.

Choose to fight for fairness.

Choose to educate yourself, and be in relationships with those that suffer injustice.

God does not equal earthly security, but he does equal eternal security. Don’t allow your comfort to fool you otherwise.

Injustice makes me scream out like Habakkuk in Habakkuk 1:2-4.

But God answers…’Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.’ [Habbakkuk 1:5]

The more you look at the scriptures the more you see, in the end, God restores, renews and rebuilds.

Now that is something to put your hope in…God taking wrongs and making them right.

community on mission

I saw a quote on Twitter, ‘Community is the byproduct of mission.’ I wonder how many would agree or disagree with that statement? Honestly…we’ve seen it both ways around Woods Chapel.

There are groups of friends, small groups or even large groups that choose to do mission together. They are all from different backgrounds…doing Bible studies together, Sunday school classes, neighbors or accountability groups. Groups go down to Westport, work in Joplin, help families that have lost jobs, bake delicious treats for neighbors or firemen, and serve at Harvesters are all examples of things our folks have done. Sometimes it’s not the whole group that is interested in serving, but as groups do everyone tags along. The part that I love, however, are those that have never served before. Never looked a homeless person in the eye, never looked for worth in one who finds pillows in dumpsters. Or didn’t realize there were thousands of people in the KC area that cannot regularly put food on their tables. And my personal favorite…those who suddenly realize that deeply caring for their neighbors is all a part of the mission God wants us to participate in while just living our ‘normal’ lives.

The groups that feel like there is something more for them to evolve toward typically find it when they serve together. The groups we’ve seen serve come away from that time with a stronger bond, more stories to laugh about and a greater understanding of what God meant when he said ‘Go!’ At the foundation of it is a group that has been the heart of God to others, and it ignites something in their souls.

‘Community is the byproduct of mission.’

Community is incredibly intensified by doing mission together. But what about those that are complete strangers who go out to serve together, and come back like family? Our Joplin teams are a fantastic example. Teams of 6-25 people were traveling to work for 1 to 3 days at a time. It became a normal thing to hear someone say, ‘I’ve been going to Woods Chapel for 10 years and I never met most of the people on my team!’ As over 200 folks traveled to Joplin…friendships were formed, relationships with ‘our Joplin families’ were nurtured and God’s presence was not only abundant, but tangible.

Woods Chapel has been serving meals down at Westport for many years. Folks go serve on a Saturday or Tuesday night, and a couple of months later go again. And soon enough there is a pattern. They learn names of those that come through the doors. They recognize faces. They acknowledge birthdays. And months later realize…this is not about serving meals. It is about connecting to others equally made in the image of God. Some of those that are investing each Saturday of the month at Westport are not only seeing homeless with a different set of eyes, but they are a part of a community that was born out of a desire to feed the hungry.

A couple of years ago, one of the Russia teams came back from a trip and wanted to figure out a way to involved everyone in the ministry at Woods Chapel instead of perpetuating the idea you had to travel to be part of the family. There are those that travel to the orphanage in Russia, families that sponsor each of the orphans, and pen pals that cannot make a monthly commitment, but want to speak hope & value into the lives of the kids. Soon Nadezhda Crew was created out of a random thought in Russia, and ever since anyone connected to the Russia ministry gathers on the first Sunday of the month to share a meal. They also do projects for the kids: cards, posters, and video messages. Without the Russia ministry…they would have never been a group. Their community was a byproduct…a beautiful, fantastic byproduct of the mission of God to serve orphans in Russia.

Each of us is born with a beautiful mission impulse. It is that part of ourselves that is hard to explain, because how do you form words around what it feels like to pour out God’s love on others? To have that gut feeling that there is more God has for you to participate in? It is the purest desire of our Father that we would fight for His kingdom on earth…and choosing to love others as a community on mission together is an amazing reflection of God’s presence in our lives.

What is your story? What has your group done? Shout it out! Hold it up! I would love to hear the story of how your group is participating in God’s mission!

the heart of God

I love snow. I just cannot help it…there is something incredibly peaceful about how silently it falls. How pure and white it is…how perfect, yet individually unique. I am literally giddy when I see perfect snowflakes and all of their points. And the world is so quiet when snow falls, especially when it falls at night…it’s a God moment for me. It’s as though, if God whispered…I’d hear it crystal clear.

Last month on the van as we drove way from Velikoretakoye orphanage…I was caught up in the emotion of the moment, and needed to put into words how I was seeing the heart of God in action. It just so happens that I was struck with the irony of being surrounded by the snow I find so peaceful, yet struggling with the inner emotional turmoil of what God was doing in my heart as I drove away from my Russian family. It’s just not ‘normal’ to love kids so much that you only see for 6 days out of the year. We find ourselves struggling with our human side that says it’s impossible to love someone THAT much especially when you barely know them. The outpouring of love, when you are choosing to do so on behalf of our Christ, is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You surrender to God, he fills you up and you release it all onto kids who rarely receive God’s love through hugs, encouragement and time well spent.

And just to be clear, when the heart of God collides with your heart…it hurts. At least it sure doesn’t feel good most of the time. But it is also one of the most beautiful, most pure, incredible things we will ever have the privilege to to experience. When you find your heart, or be blessed enough see anyone else’s, merged with God’s…it’s overwhelming and most of us are ill equipped with what to do, not only in that moment, but afterwards, too.

This doesn’t just happen on a bus traveling away from some phenomenal kids…it happens anytime someone serves God. It could be an amazing team  He threw together that against all odds, accomplished so much for Him. It could be when students ‘get’ what the Bible is talking about, and get so passionate you could never hold them back. It could be sitting at the side of a loved one when you know time is limited. When you pray for your heart to break as God’s heart breaks…that’s when you are going all in for His kingdom and embracing the joy and pain that comes with it.

What I keep trying to tell myself is…

When we feel hopeless, God is faithful.
When we feel broken, God is whole and we are made whole in him.
When we are scared, God has already won.
When we see no way out, he is the way out.
When our earthly family is not enough, he is Abba.
When our plans don’t go our way, his plan is still evolving and in place.
When we see no light at the end of the tunnel, he is the light.
When all we see is despair, he sees it all working for His good.
When all we can do is let our eyes leak, he counts each tear.
When we feel unlovable, he declares our name, counts the hairs on our head and says, ‘You are mine, and my love is ever flowing and unconditional.’

The heart of God is the mission of God…they are inseparable. Mission is connecting people to God’s heart in such a tangible way that they cannot go on without acknowledging him in their life. The mission of God doesn’t exist to be a department of a church, the church exists as a means to fulfill God’s mission in this world. Mission exists because of God’s love for each one of us. That is the whole reason we are celebrating Jesus’ birth…God sent perfection into our world so we would know how sacrificial and complete his love is for us.

Does that always mean I am hopeful? No.

Does that always mean my faith is strong? I waver when things don’t go the way I thought they would.

Does that always mean I have the answers? Hardly ever.

Does that mean I need to be reminded why I am here? Of course.

Does it make my passion for God’s coming kingdom and his mission any less passionate? Absolutely not.

Do I constantly have to listen for God’s words, his guidance…his whisper?
Every day…maybe even in a still, quiet night as snow falls and my heart collides with the heart of God. Shhhh…I’m listening, are you?

//Stephanie//