Is Giving Better than Receiving?

 

by Stephanie H.

 

Is giving better than receiving?

 

The obvious answer is, yes, of course it is.  And that is very true.  Focusing on what we have and what we get immediately puts a wall between us and God.  The last of the Ten Commandments tells us that coveting what belongs to others, wishing we could have it as good as we think everyone else has it, turns our eyes away from Jesus, and leads to a whole host of other sins.

 

So it does seem like a silly question.

Let me continue.

 

I grew up wanting to be very independent, and learned to be very good at it.  My grandparents were raised to be hard workers who took care of themselves, and considered it a matter of honor not to “take charity”.  You do what it takes to provide for your family, and for your neighbors in need, but there are always others who will need the help more than you do.  They never wanted to be a burden to anyone else by not being useful, or being unprepared for whatever life had to throw at them.  That work ethic trickled down into me as well.

 

Determination not to be idle, and to do one’s part are very valuable traits to have, but they can also be used to focus us on ourselves and to distract us from Jesus’ work in and through us.  For years, my determination to be independent and to be useful to others led me to bottling up every problem I had so that I would never have to be a burden to anyone.  Even now, being blessed to bring my every fear and concern to my Savior, it is easy for me to use that as an excuse never to rely on others for prayer, especially when I am stressed or feeling inadequate.

 

Jesus knows me so well though.  There are times that He draws me away from others so that I can spend time alone in the quiet with Him.  Then there are times when I can hardly pray a word or read a verse without Him pressing me to seek others out, share my weaknesses, and pray with them.  When I obey those promptings, it is such a blessing.  There are so many intricate ways He has to urge me to overcome my proud independence.

 

I had to confront all of this rather recently at work.  The Lord has blessed me with coworkers who truly love Him, and they have been a wonderful blessing to me.  The path on which Jesus is leading me had me living on very little, and they provided help for me in that time.  It made my independence squirm.  I hadn’t realized I had so much pride left!  At first I wanted a reason not to accept their gift, then I wanted to find someone who needed that help more than I did, and give it away as soon as possible so that I could go back to having only a little again!  Do you ever feel that it is easier to accept reluctant help than it is to accept help eagerly given out of love, without even having to ask for it?

 

Receiving sincere gifts, with no obligations and no flattery attached, really forces us to be vulnerable.  It forces us to admit a need.  How often do we want to do that?  In those times, it can be so easy to hide behind Jesus as an excuse for not needing help from His people.  Sometimes He does have us accept less from others than they are willing to provide.  Think of Paul, working as a tent-maker so that the churches he was helping would not have to pay for his needs.  Other times, we stubbornly choose to live in the wilderness out of habit, rather than allowing Him to show us the joy and glory of relying on our brothers and sisters, even as He has them rely on us.  That relationship, and the vulnerability that comes with it, strengthens us together as the body of Christ, and teaches us so much about Him that we never could have known on our own while resisting the call to depend on each other.

 

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. ~James 1:17

 

When the Lord calls us to give of ourselves, He is allowing us to be involved with Him in what He loves most.  Yet He shows us something so magnificent when we sit and watch with Him as others have the opportunity to experience that same joy of giving.  It is also a strong and comforting reminder that we are not the ones who cause good things to happen.  He loves to have us involved, but it is such a humble blessing to be taught to close our eyes and hold out our hands for the blessings He has prepared through others.  Be willing to receive, and see what love He will shower upon you.

An Unlikely Opportunity for Discipleship

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By Anna Faith

 

“Lord, please send me someone. Someone that I can pour into. Someone I can develop a friendship with–someone I share YOU with.”

This is my continual prayer to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has so impressed upon my heart the special place that teens have in HIS heart. I may be a twenty-something, but I remember clearly what I felt at 15…and 16…and 17…and 18…and so on. I remember as if it was a moment ago. I know the unspoken pressure girls feel. I know how vicious other girls can be–even Christian girls (yes..sadly, they too can often be vicious). I know how it feels to want to be admired, and wondering when you started wanting to be admired. I know what it feels like to have your crush like your best friend. I know what it’s like to stare out the window and intentionally listen to dramatic music so it feels like a music video. I even know what it’s like to feel really ugly and want to hide under layers of sweatshirts. I’ve watched my own friends battle with self-image, “friendships” with guys (meaning they actually like those guys), and even hearing the bitterness they felt towards their parents for (wise) rules set in place.

The teen years are one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through.

Yet, in the midst of all my emotions flailing as awkwardly as my clumsy limbs, I remember one girl named Danielle (as I shall call her). Danielle was about 5 years older than I was, already giving her the perk of being one of the older “cool kids”. We had a low-key friendship, meaning we didn’t know each other very well. But, in the middle of my awkwardness and really struggling to press after the Lord, she has left one of the largest impressions upon my heart. I remember the time she let us sharpie her hair, just because we asked. I remember the time she drove me to the funeral of a friend’s mom. She gently hugged me as I cried. She would drive me to meet my mom, and wasn’t even upset when the plans changed and we had to drive alllll the way back to our original destination. She always had a smile and quirky sense of humor. Danielle had her own problems, but she was the “cool” one who always made me feel like her close friend. Danielle was awesome.

As the years passed, I asked the Lord to make me a “Danielle” to someone else. I wanted to show younger girls how beautiful they REALLY are. How there is so much more to life than living for the opinions of others. Someone to encourage, to hug, and to love as a Sister-in-Christ. Someone to serve them…and to teach them how to serve others.

“Lord, where can I help?”

We all have our “circles”. We have our family, our school friends, our Bible Study ladies, our Co-op buddies, our online friends, our play-date group, our soccer team friends, our Church friends. We have our groups. We brush shoulders with people all the time–home-schooled or not. As I waded through my own circles through the years, I have crossed paths with several girls that I love dearly. BUT, I really was not able to connect with anyone that I “clicked” with. But then one day–about 3 years ago–I turned around…

…and I saw my little sister.

Seven years my junior, she is currently in the hardest stage of life. The teen years. *cue dramatic theme music*

OBVIOUSLY, because we are family, there is a certain showing of love that is expected within the sibling ranks. I am close with all three of my sisters. But, there’s something different about my baby sister. She is the goofiest, silliest, sweetest, quickest-witted, storytelling-est, sassy pants you will ever meet. She has the tenderest, most sensitive heart of anyone I have ever met. She’s my Spudnut (my nickname for her).

And the Lord told me to love her. Really love her. To invest in her. Spend time with her. Purposefully. Encourage her. To listen and to speak. To not just be her sister–but to be her friend.

In return, I was given one of the sweetest gifts. I was given a best friend. My little “Spudnut”. We share a room (which can be rough if you’re an introvert), but we have learned to really make it work. We stay up late talking. She asks me guy questions, I hear the rustle of pages late at night as she reads her Bible. If she needs to talk, she’ll sit quietly on the floor beside me until I give her my full attention. She asks me how my day was, even if I spent it at home. She makes me special things. She loves upbeat music, and jokingly rolls her eyes when I make her listen to classical to “stimulate her brain”. I tackle her when she’s grumpy (literally), erupting in hysterical laughter and flailing arms. I’ve had some of my deepest talks, and my most heart searching moments with my “Baby” sister.

It has been one of the sweetest gifts God has ever given me. But it is hard. Somedays I DON’T want to talk. I DON’T feel like listening. I just want to brush by her and let her “go play for a while”. But then the Holy Spirit will quietly whisper “Be careful, Anna. She is an answer to prayer.”

As my sister is growing into a young woman, I have begun to pray again that the Lord would open up more doors of “discipleship”, but also friendship with other girls. There are SO many teen girls who are walking around in a cloud of depression, self-hatred, and starving for LOVE. I would even encourage YOU, dear friend, as you go about your daily life–in your various circles–to seek the Lord in this area. Ask the Lord if there is anyone whom YOU might be a “Danielle” to. Are there any girls at school or Co-op who could use an encouraging word? Even if you do not think you are ” qualified”, you don’t need a degree to be a friend! 🙂

We would love to hear from you! Have you ever had a discipleship relationship or had someone reach out to you in a way that really affected you? Or have you ever had an opportunity to reach out to someone? Do you have sisters, or friends who are like sisters to you that you can minister to, and pray for?

Single? 3 Ways to Have the BEST Valentines Day EVER!

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Valentine’s Day.  That blissful time of year when all of your “non-single” friends get chocolate, and flowers, and romantic candlelight dates.  That dreaded time of year when you hide out under your covers, eat lots of chocolate (that you bought yourself), and avoid everything pink, red, or even remotely romantic.  That, or you’re one of those people who actively torture yourself by scrolling through Facebook, looking at all the sweet things that people did with their “significant other”, and you cry yourself to sleep listening to gushy love songs.  [Some people do it to themselves…just saying. 😉 ]

It’s a wonderful holiday that seems to have been instituted just to remind you of your definite singleness…again.  Not dissimilar to pouring lemon juice on a paper cut [Note: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME — Just take my word for it.]…or having text messages sent to you continually about the HUGE sale that your favorite store is having…right when you’re completely, totally broke.

So, what’s a single gal to do??

Well, you CAN hole yourself up in your room all day, and have a great big pity party…by yourself. But, I mean…again??  Really??  OR…what if you tried something different this year?

Here are 3 ideas to help you have a Valentines Day worth remembering this year!

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1.  Pray for your single girl-friends.

Start now – don’t wait!  Begin praying for each of your single girl-friends…and ask God to direct your prayers for them.  Pray that God would encourage their hearts, and surround them in His love this year.  Even ask Him to give you specific scriptures that relate to how you can pray to them, or that would be an encouragement to them.  Praying for others is one of the very best ways to get your eyes off of yourself, and get out of your own pity-party.  Making a list may help you to remember to pray for them, and to not forget anyone.

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2. Ask God to show you how to be a blessing to them.

As you’re praying for your friends, ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to them.  Ask Him for ideas of things you can do that would encourage their hearts, and show God’s love to them.  Ask God to make you His hands and feet to show them His love this year.
And then…do it. Whatever God shows you — put it into action!  It may take some real time and effort…and even money, but God will bless you for all you give.  Write out the scriptures God gives you into sweet cards.  Share whatever word of encouragement God puts on your heart for them.  Buy them some flowers…or chocolate…or both!  What do you wish someone would do for you?  Now go and do that for them!  If you really want to go all-out, you can even plan a special evening to invite them over, decorate, and make them a special meal!  Or what about a special girls’ spa night, and devotion time, where you can pray together (spending time with Jesus together is always the sweetest thing)!  The possibilities are endless when you ask God for great ideas — He knows what will most bless each of your friends! And it might be something different for each one.

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3. Spend time with Jesus.

This is last, but definitely most important of all, for truly having the best Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to spend time with Jesus, and just enjoy His presence.  Remember: He truly cares about you more than anyone else…and even after you have a loving relationship, and a blessed marriage, no guy can fill that spot in your heart that was meant for only Jesus to fill.  You’re not just spending time with Jesus because you don’t have a boyfriend!  You’re spending time with Jesus because HE is your Love, and your Life!!

Spend time thanking Jesus for all the ways He has shown His love for you this year — even write some of them down to be a reminder of His goodness for you when you’re discouraged.  Don’t rush — how would you like it if you were out for a special time with someone and all they did was look at their watch the whole time??  Take your time to really enjoy God’s presence, and be a real friend for Him.

And why don’t you take some time to actually write God a love-letter this year?  Tell Him all the things you love about Him, and that you can’t imagine your life without Him.  Even pray about what you can give Him as a gift this year — it can be something as simple as giving Him your worries about the future, and committing to trust Him more, and not fear about the future.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOU?? Do you have any other ideas for having a blessed Valentine’s Day?  Have you ever tried reaching out to those who are lonely on Valentine’s Day?  If someone was going to do something kind for you on Valentine’s Day, what do you think you would bless you the most?  Now…how can you take that and use it to bless others?  Share your thoughts in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, and even feature some of your ideas here!

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ART That Captures the Heart of God!

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There are some who seem to be particularly gifted with the ability to mull over numbers and facts for hours on end.  There are those who are gifted to be teachers, nurses, and secretaries — those who keep the world going ‘round.  And then…there are some, like myself, who are captured by beauty and remain simply unable to look away.  Beauty tugs at our heart strings and causes us to forget the realities of this world and the things that are needed to make it run, as we find ourselves lost in the pursuit of capturing it.  Some of us use paintbrushes, and some – pencil, charcoal, ink.  Some delight in using the modern technology within our cameras to capture beauty…and some are content to sit with only their imagination as the limit of what they can capture.

I’ve always liked to think of this pursuit as being especially close to the heart of God, the Artist Who paints every sunset in the sky, and captures every sparkle on the water just so.  God has put into us a little of His own Being…and that, I believe, is where we get our love of creating beauty!

However, the devil never rests at his job of corrupting every good gift from God…and in this current society I see it more starkly displayed than perhaps has ever been seen on earth before.  Skulls are entwined with flowers and bows on every hoodie in the mall.  Sculptures in every park look like chunks of metal that fell off a spaceship and got embedded into the ground.  Paintings consist of random splatters and drips…or people who are garishly disproportionate…or inappropriate.  And so many dark, depressing works of “art” that just make your skin crawl – many of which include hellish faces leering at you as you walk by.  That’s what happens when God isn’t welcome.  All true creativity, sweetness, and beauty is lost.  Without instruction from the Master Designer, we can only create empty forms of beautiful things…and they will be lacking all of the vibrancy and life that made them worthy of capturing in the first place!  And every “art gathering” is simply an expo of New Age, magic, death, pride, lust, and all KINDS of terrible things.  NOT exactly what our hearts are longing for.

So, how can we make the best use of our art?  How can our art most glorify the Creator of art — the King of the Universe?  How can our art stand out like a beacon of light in the midst of the dark, dank “art cave” of this world?  How can we truly capture God’s heart in our art?

1.) Capture innocence.

The sparkle in a child’s eyes.  The frisking of a puppy.  The gentleness of the world cloaked in snowy wonder.  The delicate curve of a flower’s soft petals.  These things are all full of an innocence that the world overlooks, and has forgotten how to appreciate.  The world needs bold colors, elements that grate against each-other in an irritating way, and disturbing images to capture our media-deadened minds, so that we’ll take notice.  But God’s ways take us back to child-like innocence and purity…and the ability to take delight in the gentle and sweet things that He has created; these are the sort of things that come from His heart!  Everything He does blends perfectly, and He always highlights just the right parts to cause our eyes to marvel at the beauty.  He does not create anything ugly, or perverse, or even irritating to our eyes and our sense of proportion and beauty.  If you are going to make art, imitate our good God in this: capture innocence.

2.) Capture light, virtue, and beauty.

God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all [1 John 1:5].  The moody, depressing paintings of the world ooze with darkness and despair.  They exalt perverseness and immorality, and the twisting of beauty into something that echoes the chaos of their hearts.  This is not art to be praised!  This is simply a window into the hearts of men without God, no matter how fine the brush-strokes, or how perfect the hues.  These “artists” are to be pitied, and prayed for…but not emulated!  No!  Do not desire to be like these, however popular or praised they may be.  To capture God’s heart, and draw hearts to Him through our art, it must be bursting with light, celebrating virtue, and full of the delight of true beauty – which can be found in all the things that God has created.  In order to truly capture God’s heart in these things, though, we must actually have a close friendship with Him ourselves, first and foremost.  In order to see what He sees, and capture things in just the right way that brings glory to Him and causes people’s hearts to rejoice, we must truly KNOW Him, and be close to His heart.  Anyone who does not know God, cannot capture things through His eyes, and cannot see the beauty that only His children can see.

And, one tip I have been coming to understand about what sets a good painting or drawing or photo apart from the rest is always significantly about the lighting in the picture.  So, I recommend, if you want to be able to capture the beauty you see, or the sweet things in your imagination — study light.  Study the way it dances through the trees, and sparkles on the ripples in the river, and gives depth to scenes that would otherwise be flat and boring.  Note how it causes a face to glow, and how it gives petals an inner radiance.

3.) Capture truth.

While drawing fantasy worlds may be fun, or relaxing, it is most likely never going to save a soul.  Focus, instead, on what is true.  And…what is truth?  God is truth.  Salvation is truth.  Repentance and forgiveness are truth.  Fighting to hold onto salvation is truth.  Our heavenly reward is truth.  Though this kind of art may not be for everyone, I have found some of the most compelling art I have ever seen to be that which captures the spiritual truths that give us a heavenly window into spiritual realities that we can’t always see, but know to be true.  I think an excellent example of this is Ron DiCianni.  His paintings are all beautiful depictions of a Christian’s life, and glimpses into heaven.  I think perhaps my favorite is one he calls, “Safely Home”, which depicts a Christian martyr just arriving in the presence of the Lord, finally free of his chains, and held in His Savior’s comforting embrace, as an angel waits to give him his new and shining white robes.  So much emotion is captured in this one scene, and it is one that causes your own heart to long to be faithful unto death — to “Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown”. [Revelation 3:11].

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4.) Capture Heaven.

Jesus dwells in Heaven.  It is a very real world, full of light and beauty and free from the effects of sin and death.  If you can give people a glimpse into heaven with your art, not only will their hearts be compelled to rejoice, but there will be an inner longing that is awakened in their hearts that may very well lead them to the Savior Himself.  I can’t necessarily dictate to you all that this means for your art, and it very much ties in with my previous points…but if you prayerfully make this your goal in all that you do, you will find your art take on a new depth and life.

5.) Selfless art.

Perhaps the highest call for art is, in fact, using it to bless others.  You may think that it’s not worth it to spend days or weeks on a painting just to give it away to one person.  But the act of giving something so full of care and effort away for the eyes of the receiver alone is an act of the greatest humility and selflessness.  Not expecting any praise or acclaim or gain, but just giving to make someone smile.  I have personally found that I prefer this kind of art over every other; just seeking the Lord for His ideas for a picture for someone, often with a verse to go with it, that will really minister to their hearts in exactly the ways that HE knows they need.  When I seek God for His thoughts and ideas, and His help to draw/paint/take pictures that are sweet and full of His love, I am never disappointed at the way He uses it to speak to the hearts of the receivers in a special way — and that is the greatest reward!

6.) Surrendered art.

Here I come to a most difficult point, but in it is found the greatest reward!  If you think there is any chance for God to use your life to reach other with the gospel; if you want to serve God, and see lives changed…don’t look to your art, and don’t hold too fast to your own notions of what you want to do with your “gift”.  There are so many thousands and millions of desperately hurting, lost, and dying people in this world who need Jesus, that if there is any potential that God could use you in the harvest, there really can’t be any time wasted on seeking after art for art’s sake.  One painting, one drawing can take days and weeks to complete.  And there just isn’t any way to justify the loss of that much time. Jesus is returning soon, and every moment we spend in seeking our own interests is a moment that we aren’t reaching out and rescuing another soul for eternity.  We can try to justify our art as a “tool” for the gospel, and as long as it truly is, I think God will bless it.  But how much of it is simply seeking our own idea of what we want to do, and what we find delightful and “fun”?  Honestly, there is just no time to waste on art that doesn’t directly call people to seek the Lord.  God has really made this clear to my heart.  I had thought that I might like to go to art school as I was considering after-highschool options…and even after I decided against college, I still held onto art as something that I desired to excel in and be known for.  But then, God did something special.  He called me to serve Him full-time instead, both in directly sharing Him with people all across North America, and in simply making the best use of my time, and making sure that everything I use my time for is with the goal of expanding the Kingdom of God.  He has asked me to lay aside my desires to build my life on art, and instead, to desire to seek and save the lost.  It is interesting, because sometimes He will give me something to do that involves art…whether illustrating a book, or doing photography for someone, or making a drawing or painting to bless someone with…and instead of it being me seeking my own pleasure or acclaim, it is just a part of my obedience to Him and His call on my life, and is filled with almost the same joy as leading a soul to Him directly.  Sacrificing our art for the sake of seeing lost souls come to salvation is a sacrifice that is well-pleasing to God, and He will cause it to be like fertilizer for the seeds that are planted in people’s lives to spring up and flourish!

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One encouraging example of this area of surrender, one that encouraged me to release my grip on “my art”, is Rosalind Goforth, who, with her husband Jonathan, was a missionary to China starting in the late 1800’s.  God granted them the answer of their prayer of reaching 10,000 souls with the gospel.  Rosalind was a talented young artist from a well-to-do, prominent family in England.  Her days from youngest childhood were largely spent beside her artist father’s easel, who strongly desired that she would be an artist, and saw in her a natural talent.  At age 12, after hearing a preacher speak at a revival meeting, Rosalind gave her heart to the Lord.  She said, “From that time, and increasingly as the years passed, there seemed to be two elements contesting within me, one for art, the other — an intense longing to serve the Master to whom I had given myself.”  Rosalind did, in fact, end up graduating from the Toronto School of Art, and was preparing to leave for London to complete her studies in art abroad when God changed her course. In Rosalind’s own words,

“The autumn of 1882 found us again settled in Toronto, when I at once entered the Art School.  The period of three years that followed was a period of great unrest in my life.  While I loved my art, for it was born in me, yet there was always the inner, secret longing for definite Christian service.  I came to pray daily that a door might be opened for such.

Mother and my eldest brother, Fred, had given Father their solemn promise that I would be sent to England for training in the Kensington School of Art.  In view of this promise, Mother’s later action may be better and more sympathetically understood.

Little did I dream as we entered the year 1885 how completely the course of my life, as then planned, was to change before the year ran out.  Graduation from the art school was to come in May, when a coveted gold medal was to be presented by the Governor General of Canada.  One pupil, Miss X, and myself were so far ahead of the others in the class, it was a foregone conclusion that one of us would get the medal.  There is little doubt had I won it I would have been so elated the artist career would certainly have followed.  But GOD planned otherwise.

Early in February, I was taken ill with inflammatory rheumatism.  This was the third serious attack.  For days my life hung in the balance.  I was only half conscious and unable to move or be moved.  Every joint in my body seemed on fire.  Some weeks before, I had memorized the hymn, the first verse of which is:

How sweet the name of JESUS sounds

In a believer’s ear;

It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,

And drives away his fears.

Words fail me to describe what that hymn meant to me through those days of agony.  The words, fresh in mind, came without effort.  While at times the whole six verses would come as soothing balm, it was the message of the first two lines of the last verse that brought to me the irresistible call to service. The words,

I would thy boundless love proclaim

With every fleeting breath

seemed burned into my soul.  I came out of that valley of suffering determined to pry myself loose from the things that were forcing me to follow other than the path of Christian service.

It was then I began to pray that if the Lord wanted me to live the married life, he would lead to me one wholly given up to Him and to His service.  I wanted no other.

Graduation time came, and while I was able to attend, I, of course, failed to win the gold medal, which was awarded to Miss X.

Preparations had begun for my going to England, for I had told no one, not even my mother, of my spiritual struggles and secret hopes, believing it was better to leave the Lord to work out all in His own way.  Then, in a truly marvelous way, He brought into my life just what I had asked for, a man wholly yielded to GOD and His service.”

That, of course, being Mr. Jonathan Goforth.  And Rosalind tells the remarkable story in his biography and a few other of her written works.

“On looking back upon that time, the greatest wonder seems to be the rapidity with which events took place: the meeting with Mr. O’Brien at St. Peter’s; a few days later his invitation to the workers’ meeting of the Toronto Mission Union; the introduction of ‘Jonathan Goforth, our city missionary’; and a few days later the never-to-be-forgotten incident of examining the worn Bible.  At that meeting, though the first I had attended, my name was included in the committee appointed to find a place and open a branch mission in the east end slums.  Mr. Henry O’Brien was chairman, while Jonathan Goforth was also included on the committee.  Thus we were coworkers from the beginning.

The two years given to work in the East End slums, was of the greatest possible value in gaining experience which gave me a realization of my own personal responsibility towards my unsaved sisters.   Of course, by this time, art had practically dropped out of my life, and in its place had come a deep desire to be a worthy life-partner of one so wholly yielded to his Divine Master, as I knew Jonathan Goforth to be.

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A painting by Rosalind’s brother, Fred, showing the level of talent she gave up to serve the Lord.

To my great surprise, Mother’s reaction to this slum work was most sympathetic.  For weeks all went well. Then one day, as if uneasy, she expressed a wish for Mr. Goforth to come for supper Sunday evening.  He came and Mother liked him; but that evening when I returned from the mission, Mother looked straight at me in a strange way and said, ‘Rosie, was the moon out tonight?’  Everyone in the room had his eyes on me, and my embarrassment was more than I could bear, for I had to acknowledge, as I fled, that I did not know! (Jonathan Goforth had accompanied me home.)

The next morning, Mother came to me and said sternly, ‘This slum work is to cease at once.  You are to get ready and leave for England without delay!’  I replied quietly, but firmly, ‘Mother, it is too late; I promised Jonathan Goforth last night to be his wife and to go to China!’

Poor Mother! She almost fainted! It is not necessary to give the details of the week that followed.  Suffice it to say, Mother gave me the choice of obeying Father’s dying wish or leaving home. For six weeks, I stayed with a brother in a distant city.

Then came a letter from my sister pleading with me to return, as Mother was sobbing day and night and seemed failing fast.

On reaching home, I was shocked at the change in Mother.  She would not speak to me and seemed broken-hearted.  My distress was now very great.  Could it be GOD’s will for me to break my Mother’s heart?  At last, one day, as I listened to her pacing her bedroom floor, weeping,  I could stand the strain no longer and determined to find out GOD’s will so plainly I could make no mistake.  Going down to the parlor, where the large family Bible rested on a small davenport or desk, I stood for a moment crying to the Lord for some word of light. Then I opened the Bible at random, and the first words my eyes lit on were:

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and

bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

I knew at once GOD was speaking His will to me through these words, and in an instant the crushing burden was gone.  Running to Mother’s room, I begged her to hear what I had to say.

Unwillingly, she unlocked the door and stood while I told her of my prayer and answer.  For a moment only she hesitated, then with a cry I could never forget, she threw her arms about me, saying, ‘O my child, I can fight against you, but I dare not fight against GOD.’   From that moment till her death eighteen months later, Mother’s heart was entirely with me in the life I had chosen.”

So, as you can see from this example, it may be a difficult thing to surrender your art to the Lord – and there may even be those who can’t understand why you would set aside such “talent”.  But I know that Jesus has said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?  For what can a man give in return for his soul?”  (Mark 8:34-37 ESV)  And I hold fast to this hope and assurance — that anything I give up in this life will be my greatest gain in the life to come.

So whether in taking up your art as a tool to spread the love of Christ, or laying it down as a sweet offering before the throne of God, do it all for the glory of God.

And may I also give a fair warning to those of you who are considering going to college for art?  Be very careful and prayer-full.  You might actually do better to pray and study under God’s guidance – with Him as your teacher, than to shell out  tens of thousands of dollars to go to a school where they can’t actually help you.  Many of the art programs are so yucky, and with many teachers so full of the darkness of the world, that you couldn’t actually learn to make beautiful art there.  They cannot teach what they do not know.  Additionally, most art programs today are full of immense wickedness, and sin is celebrated and encouraged!  It is a sad reality, but you don’t have to be discouraged, because God is the best teacher in these things that you could ever have!  Seek Him, and you will not be disappointed!

What’s a Missionary?

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What does it mean to be a missionary? The general idea of a missionary – the one that is always the first thing that pops into our heads at the mention of the word – is often times something like a saintly, glowing person with a halo. Someone with superhuman abilities to do things that “normal” people would never do. Someone who always does and says the right thing, and somehow magically always knows exactly what to do when confronted with a challenge. Someone who goes into the jungles of Africa alone and fearlessly preaches to hundreds of people who all get saved. Someone with great charisma and boldness.

If some of these things are what come to your mind when you think about what a missionary is…you might be surprised to hear what I’m about to say. But I will preface it by saying that I am comforted by these verses:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV)

Serving the Lord isn’t just about going overseas to build houses, or doctor sick people, or preach to cannibal tribes. Sometimes God calls people to do these things…and that is always really amazing to see! But sometimes there’s no glorious title given, such as “So-and-So, a missionary to Such-and-Such exotic location”. Sometimes serving God and doing what He asks you to do means staying in your home country – or even your hometown! Sometimes it means just being faithful to go out to the streets of your city and tell people about Jesus. It can mean simply realizing that practically every person you see walking by you every day is lost and confused and hurting…and dying inside, because they have no hope; because they don’t know Jesus………and then committing yourself to follow the Lord’s direction to reach out to them, and to do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus – to give them a chance at receiving new hearts and new lives. It’s not always glorious being a “missionary”. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t mean getting a great tan, or having lots of pictures in your scrapbook with little kids in rags, with dirty faces. These people need Jesus…but so does the kid walking down the street with his face glued to his gameboy. So does the girl you see sitting alone on the bench in the park just crying. So does the barista at the coffee shop, with the sad eyes and empty heart…who has tried buddhism, witchcraft, and mormonism…and who is still searching and empty…so empty, and so confused. You don’t have to raise thousands of dollars to go out for a week and do a building project in a third world country. You just have to wake up, and look around you each day – any day. You just have to see the needs of the people in your own town instead of pushing them aside, or assuming they’re “alright” (as I can often do myself, because my natural tendency is to generally just assume that everyone is doing fine). You might be their only chance to hear about Jesus, and how He can actually give them new hearts and take away their sins, and their guilt and shame and emptiness and fill them with joy. Pray for God to give you His eyes to see people…and pray for boldness…because you’ll need it.

Now, can I tell you that, despite the rosy picture people have of “missionaries”…we are not super-human. In fact…our weaknesses are perhaps MORE apparent in the heat of spiritual battle, lack of sleep, and general stress. We often have moments of intense fear and intimidation. There are many times that we know God has told us to do something, and we hesitate too long. There are many missed opportunities. Many times we know we just need to reach out and help someone…and yet, the words escape us. We get tired – very tired – and grumpy. Sometimes we say the wrong things; sometimes we say things out of our emotions (which are not always right) instead of from God’s Spirit’s guiding. We don’t always have victory over the devil’s attacks and discouragements the first time…or the second. We don’t always see fruit from our labors; there aren’t people continually repenting or lining the streets asking, “What must I do to be saved?” We don’t get lots of pats on the back or encouragement – in fact, anger and slander and lots of hurtful words are more common than I ever thought they would be. There are many times when we wish we just had a little bubble that we could pull out and hide in whenever we wanted to have some “alone” or “peace-and-quiet” time. There are lots of times when we’d like to just give up, or get a “real” job, or, at the very least, go on a month vacation. There are some people and places we come across that just downright creep us out. There are sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, discomforts galore…and lots of times – too many from me personally – that we grumble and complain instead of praising the Lord like we know we should.

Being a missionary means being “on call” for God to use you as His hands and feet whenever, wherever He wants to…and it generally goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. Can I just say that again? It generally, almost always, goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. God likes to use us in areas we aren’t comfortable in so that we cling to Him more tightly, and so His power is displayed in our weaknesses – not our skill and cleverness. Sometimes God will call us to do things in a way that we are particularly gifted and comfortable in. Sometimes. But more often than not, I have seen God’s call on my life and many others lead them outside of their realm of comfort and skill, leading them to lay aside their hobbies and many of the “gifts” they seem to have – the ones everyone is continually complimenting them on and marveling over – in order to just pursue reaching the lost with reckless abandon. There will be time for painting and knitting and playing instruments and doing trigonometry (if that’s something that floats your boat) in heaven. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things, but we can waste so much time pursing our own interests and dreams that we don’t even notice the hurting people around us. And all of these things take up so much time that they really leave very little for seeking the Lord ourselves, let alone trying to help others find Him. And I will also just add that I have had to lay aside many, many interests that I had in order to do the things God has set before me in this time – from art and playing instruments regularly, to dreams of being an archaeologist and a novel-writer.) But there is only a very short time we have on earth, and SO many hurting, lost people who are just blindly stumbling their way into hell! A missionary is simply someone who decides that time is too short to pursue things other than rescuing the lost, and who lays aside their other dreams and goals in order to seek those who are wandering, and to hold them back from the slaughterer of souls.

A missionary is not a perfect person, not always bold and outgoing (I’m really not!), not eloquent, doesn’t always have the whole Bible memorized, doesn’t always wake up like a chipmunk on coffee – wanting to go out and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone they see, and doesn’t always know the right things to say or do. A missionary is simply someone whose heart has been filled with love and concern for others, and has laid down their own lives in order to bring others into freedom through the gospel (John 15:13). And it is oh, so worth it. Every time I get to see that light in the eyes of someone who “gets it”, my heart overflows with gladness and thankfulness to the Lord for leading me in this way. It can be challenging at times – and made more so by my own weaknesses…but it is so worth it, and so sweet; there is nothing I would rather do. The fruit of living the life of a missionary is that which will last forever, instead of turning to dust like the treasure of this world; meaningless when your life is over. It is wonderful to see people raised up from their dead lives and given new hearts; filled with joy and light! It is beautiful to see those who were wandering aimlessly through life become like an unfolding flower; beautiful and fragrant. It is so special to be a part of a young child taking hold of the Good Shepherd’s hand for the first time. All this because Jesus chooses the foolish things of this world…..and that would be me. I am so grateful to be a part of His plan…and you can be too.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11

“…save others by snatching them out of the fire.” Jude 23a