Monthly Archives: February 2013

5 things the newcomer in church wants you to know

It’s happened more than once. Actually, seven times.

I was new to a church, facing the dilemma of making new friends.

I am not a shy person, but even so, I could not always avoid the uncomfortable, self-conscious, outsider feelings. I would look around at people happily chatting in their little circles, knowing that I might become great friends with some of them in the days ahead, but wondering what I should do with the awkward “now.”

If people didn’t make eye-contact and reach out with a handshake and smile, I had to decide if I would make the first move or busy myself with a quick dig through my purse.

I’m forever indebted to the dear souls who, after seeing me a few Sundays in a row, came up to me and introduced themselves or even invited our family to join them for lunch.

How long has it been since were the outsider? If you’ve never left your home church, or have been in the same place for a number of years, you might have to work a little harder to put yourself in the newcomer’s shoes.

Here are five things I wished I could have shared with “you” as I became a part of your community:

  1. You’re intimidating. I know you’re not trying to be — in fact, you may be more timid than me, but by virtue of the fact that you are at home here and I’m not, I find it incredibly hard to approach you.
  2. I may look cool, calm, and collected, maybe even aloof, but I’m fervently hoping that some warm friendly soul comes my way.
  3. Any little gesture of friendliness you offer goes a long way. Even a quick, genuine smile or a “hello” with eye-contact is huge.
  4. If you engage me in real conversation or invite me to lunch or coffee, I’ll respect you forever.
  5. I come with a story — with baggage, like we all do. I’m probably not going to find it easy to open up about it, but I would love for you to ask me how I’m doing and lead the way for me to share more of myself with you.

Philippians

It’s interesting… as I went through the early lonelier weeks in each place, I vowed that once I belonged, I would be the friendly one. Once I was assimilated into each church though, I realized how hard it was to keep that promise.

  • I really do understand that it’s more fun to talk with your friends than it is to reach out to a stranger.
  • I feel the stretch of leaving my comfort zone when I ask someone if they’re new and try to get a conversation started.
  • I’ve embarrassed myself more than once by welcoming people who had been members for decades, or forgetting I introduced myself to the same person a couple weeks ago.

But, I’m learning it’s all necessary. Humbling and necessary.

It’s part of looking out for the interests of others.

It’s an act of obedience, it causes me to grow, it blesses others, and it brings wonderful new friends!

What verses or principles from Scripture come to your mind on the topic of reaching out to others? What are your thoughts on how we can all improve in this area of selfless friendliness?

Do you want to escape the drudgery?

If you were granted three “escape” wishes, what you would escape from? You probably don’t have to think too hard, but if you’re struggling, just pick the three things that give you an instant headache, make your chest tighten, bore you to death, or put you in a horrible mood.

Today, mine would be:

  1. filling out paperwork
  2. organizing paperwork
  3. doing laundry

I would much rather be doing something meaningful, exciting, something that requires a leap of faith, and gets my heart pumping.

The funny thing is, most of my current drudgery came about after I took a leap of faith and pursued a meaningful, exciting dream.

I loved the dream of international adoption, so Jarod and I prayed for the privilege. God actually granted us our hearts’ desires!

Now, I have the responsibility to fill out and organize more (and more… and more) paperwork to get our beloved children American citizenship, to qualify for scholarships, to receive necessary health care.

I (we) took a leap of faith and adopted not only one child, but twins… “Oh wait,” we said, “let’s add another.” And then, God blessed us with two of our own, through impossible circumstances. How thrilling! What a calling to be a mother of five!

Now I have the responsibility to keep those five children and my husband in clean clothes (not to mention fed and nurtured in every way).

My next dream will be no different. No matter what mountain of splendor I want to scale and claim, I will be faced not only with the difficult process of conquering, but also of maintaining and cultivating.

The truth is, that’s the real test of my character and of my level of faith.

Yes, it takes some boldness to set out on an adventure or to take a leap in the dark, but it takes perseverance and a deeper trust in God to press on when life is dull, mundane, stressful, or even completely awful.

If you are struggling today with…

  • The hard work of marriage,
  • The whining kids and messy house,
  • The job that bores you to tears,
  • Your ministry efforts that are completely taken for granted,

…find encouragement from the One has entrusted you with these tasks.

I know I desperately need His Words today to plod faithfully on.
Colossians Pinnable
“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…”
(Ephesians 3:16)

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
(Ephesians 5:15-17)

“With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.”
(Ephesians 6:7-8)

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:14)

“…For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am…
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
(Philippians 4:11b, 13)

“…That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience…”
(Colossians 1:9b-11a)

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”
(Galatians 6:9)

These verses completely reshape my ideas of drudgery.

Here’s my new list:

  1. I have the honor of serving the One who rescued me from darkness.
  2. He Himself supplies the strength and grace to do the serving.
  3. He will reward me.

Lord, help me to serve you with joy instead of longing to escape the tasks you’ve entrusted to me.

What are your drudgeries/privileges today?

How has God encouraged you to press on in the mundane?

Interested in International Adoption?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I recently wrote an article for an international adoption website. Whether you are just a little curious about adoption, seriously considering it, or already into the heart of the process, this website may be helpful to you.

My article offers encouragement for those in the waiting stage:

International Adoption and Waiting: The Hardest Part of Adopting

When people disappoint us

Do I even need to ask if you’ve been disappointed by people that you respected, admired, loved?

I imagine you have. It’s hard enough to be disappointed by someone that you didn’t have very high expectations of to begin with, but it’s even worse when you had good reason to believe in them, especially when they are a brother or sister in Christ.

I’ve done a little thinking about some of the low-lights of my life — times when I was let down by other Christians. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve spent most of my life surrounded by people that have blessed my socks off, but maybe that’s why the hurtful situations stung all the more. As I reflect, I am deeply grateful for God’s grace and mercy through the messes, and I’m reminded of some truths and principles that I wish I had done a better job of applying while I was wrestling with disillusionment and anger.

1) Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
It’s definitely crucial to speak the truth — don’t think it’s right to lie and say you weren’t bothered by something when you really were. We are called to be iron, sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), challenging each other to grow.

It’s equally important to speak in love rather than condemnation — it is your love that shows you are Christ’s disciples. (John 13:35) Even Jesus himself, who was blameless, confronted only in love; Holy anger at the sin— yes, but also still in love to the sinner.

2) Check the mirror for the log in your own eye.
Matthew 7:4 says, “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?”

Make sure you know where you are sinning. Confess it and deal with it before confronting. Confess your sin to your offender as well.

3) Follow the Matthew 18 principle:

A) Confront (in love) one-on-one. Don’t gossip, don’t gang up on the offender. Go to them in private and try to work things out God’s way.

B) If A doesn’t work, bring a witness and confront (in love) again.

C) If A & B don’t work, bring the issue to the Body of believers. Allow your pastor to guide the process.

4) Remember that your fight is not actually against “flesh and blood” but rather “against the spiritual forces of wickedness.” (Ephesians 6:12)
This is huge. Satan is constantly at work to divide the Body of Christ. No matter how horribly your brother or sister in the Lord has offended you, remember who your true enemy is. Put on your spiritual armor (Ephesians 6) so that you can do battle properly and against the right enemy.

5) Understand forgiveness.
Know that Christ calls us to forgive “seventy times seven” — meaning without limit. (Matthew 18:21-22)

Also know that forgiving someone is not the same thing as having no healthy boundaries. Forgiveness means you give up your “right” to see them punished. You rejoice at God’s grace toward them and you show them grace as well. But, it doesn’t mean that you expect to be best friends or even that you stay in regular communication if that would provoke further problems.

6) Look forward to heaven.
If your heart hurts at the fact that your fellowship has been broken with someone, even after handling conflict or disappointment in as biblical manner as possible, take comfort knowing that all things will be made new in heaven. There will be no more tears or pain. (Revelation 21:4) We will finally experience the joy of being unified in Christ; free from sin.

How is sin related to the law of gravity?

Do you ever feel like you’re doing a pretty good job at life? Your ugly sin nature hasn’t flared up too badly in a while — at least not that you’ve noticed — and then, just when you’re floating so happily along, you’re tested?

Yeah, that happens to me.

Something or someone provokes me.
And I really want to shift the blame, ‘cause I’m so sure I had things under control.

Then the Holy Spirit gets involved.
Are you really blameless here?
Even if you were until now (theoretically), how pure are all these mumblings and murmurings?

No. No, I’m not blameless at all. And no, the angry thoughts tumbling through my brain are anything but holy.

When I finally ask God to show me where I’m wrong, it’s overwhelming. I see my sin, but…

How can I possibly make myself do the right thing?

Because I really don’t want to.
It’s hard.

In her book Your Beautiful Purpose (previously blogged about here), Suzie Larson quotes William MacDonald as he illustrates the conflicting laws of sin and death with the law of the Spirit:

It’s like the law of gravity. When you throw a ball into the air, it comes back down because it is heavier than the air it displaces. A living bird is also heavier than the air it displaces, but when you toss it up in the air, it flies away. The law of life in the bird overcomes the law of gravity. So the Holy Spirit supplies the risen life of the Lord Jesus making the believer free from the law of sin and death.

Let me tell you, I’ve tried the ball trick over and over again. I decide I will do the right thing.
Up goes the ball.
And seconds later, I’m glaring at the ball that did not fly… because it was lifeless.

What does God’s Word say?

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms… (Ephesians 1:18-20)

God’s Word says I am not doomed to thud repeatedly to the ground.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

I can even be used for God’s glory if I face my sinfulness…

if I humbly ask Him to change me…

if I acknowledge that it’s only ever His life that will allow me to fly.

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