All my life I was raised in a ministers home and because of that there was a certain standard I was expected to keep. In the denomination I was raised you didn’t smoke, drink, dance, or hang out with folks that did. The only problem with that was, as a teenager I thought all the cool kids in High school did those things.
I’ll never forget when the sweet little old lady in one of our churches who didn’t come to know Christ until much much later in life, told my husband ” Pastor I don’t want to tell other people about Jesus, because I want to keep Him all to myself. I don’t want to give Him away!” What this little lady didn’t realize is that the more we share Jesus with others the more real He becomes to us and in us. His love grows as we share Him. We don’t lose Him. To not give Jesus away is a selfish act and if we are going to be Christ-like we need to be selfless just like He was, when He gave His life for us on the cross.
I was reading an article today by Jason Inman from Life.Church where he shares some examples of selfish things we say all the time and then the selfless option that Christ would really like us to see. Take a look at what he says,
- When we pay off our debt, we’ll start giving more.
Selfless: We’ll give and not hold back. (Proverbs 21:26)
- The neighbors are driving down the value of my home.
Selfless: Hey, I know you’ve been busy lately, and I have an open weekend. When’s a good time to come help with your yard? I know you’d do the same for me. (Matthew 7:12)
- I’m sure someone else has already invited them to church.
Selfless: Do you want to come church with me? You’d be welcome to join us for lunch afterward, too. (Matthew 28:19)
- Maybe next time.
Selfless: You know what? I’d love to. (Luke 6:30)
- I wish I could help you, but I don’t have any cash on me.
Selfless: How are you? Can we get you someplace warm to eat? (Luke 10:25-37)
- I want to pray more, but the morning is like a circus in my house.
Selfless: When I put God first, everything else gets in line. (Proverbs 3:6)
- That’s great, but did you hear what I did?
Selfless: *nods *smiles *listens (James 1:19)
- I worked hard for what I have—they can do the same.
Selfless: I share with others because Jesus said that’s how I share with Him. (Matthew 25:40)
- Sorry sweetheart, Daddy’s really busy.
Selfless: Puts down phone, “Come here. Will you show me that again?” (Matthew 19:14)
- I’ll serve and volunteer more when I retire or when I have less work.
Selfless: I started serving, and now it’s like a breath of fresh air every week. (Proverbs 11:25)
Often times what we don’t realize is that we all make choices everyday that either shows Christ love or shows our selfish side. This sweet little lady, had found a love like she had never had before, so she was afraid that she would lose this amazing love she had found if she gave it away. But I am here to say, we are never more like Christ, than when we give love away.
Part of walking with Christ is dying to ourselves and doing what God wants us to do. I believe He uses everyday experiences for us to practice that death. We don’t want to over commit ourselves at church, because we like our freedom and the ability to not have to be at church each week when we just don’t feel like it. So we refuse to volunteer at church. See we are thinking of ourselves first. Maybe you are a busy parent and it is much easier to stay in bed then to get up and spend time with God. But we know ultimately, spending time with God is what we need to be the best parent we can be.
The truth is though, we do what we want to do. That is why we have to teach ourselves to deny our wants and do God’s will. So why not this week lets make a conscious effort to think before we speak and choose to do what He would do? Before we say “No, or I can’t” Why not ask yourself “What would Jesus Do?”. “Is there an bigger eternal purpose to this situation?”, “Could God use this for His glory in this?”
I am thankful, that our sweet little friend discovered the joy of giving herself away and showing Christ love in practical ways before she passed away. Even in her ill health, with many physical issues that caused her at times to not even be able to get out of bed and when she did, she walked with a walker. She allowed God to use her, by writing notes and cards to people. She sent the we missed you cards and birthday cards out for the church. She also used the phone and computer to encourage others. Before she passed she made it her mission to encourage others and she didn’t let her disability keep her from it.
I think when we stop looking at the mirror and begin looking at our life through a magnifying glass and ask God to help us see with His eyes than we will have a different perspective of what we should be doing. Less of me and more of God needs to be our motto this week.
It’s a New Year and with New Years usually comes New Years Resolutions. One of the most popular resolutions is “To lose weight”. My family has battled the “Battle of the bulge for all our lives” Some people say, weight issues are hereditary and others say it is environmental or learned behaviors. Looking back on my life, I have always had friends that didn’t have any weight issues. They could eat anything and look good no matter what, while at the same time, I could just smell what they were eating and would gain 10lbs. And let me tell you it hasn’t gotten any easier since I hit my last couple of Birthdays. Turning 29 years old for the 23rd time is so not easy!
Each of my skinny friends have encouraged me, they give me suggestions, work out with me, walked me through diets and for a time, I totally change my lifestyle and I see some positive results for a season. But sooner or later, I slowly go back to what I am comfortable with and my old habits take over. Then my friends basically give up on me. Sometimes, we talk a little less, after that, other times they just drop the subject with me when we are together. I realize it is a sensitive subject and one most don’t want to tread. So I understand but I gotta be honest, some days I just want that friend who will take me by the hand and sometimes drag me to do what is right.
This got me thinking….. See in the 40 plus years of ministry my husband and I have been in, I think I know how my skinny friends feel when I fail at my new diet plan. Countless times my husband and I have reached out to someone who wasn’t following Christ, or often someone who wants help reaches out to us. I can’t tell you how many times we have come along side our friend encouraged them, and pointed them in the right direction. They start coming to church, going to bible study, we hang out, they accept Christ as their Savior. They begin to change their ways, giving up their old habits and following after what Christ would want for them to do. They start dying to themselves and we begin to see God do great things for them, and then it seems like they hit a wall. They slowly drop out of church or they start to come periodically. They drop out of bible study, and slowly but surely they go back to their old ways. They lose their passion.
This reminds me of a guy in the bible who lost his passion. See David was a King who as a young boy was a fierce warrior. Sure he hung out in the field with the sheep (the lowest of jobs a the time) but that didn’t discourage him, he knew his job was important so he would practice his warrior moves, slinging the sling shot I can see him using his walking stick as a sword and waving it in the air toward the imaginary opponent. The bible tells us he was honored all around the country as a warrior, they even sung a song about him. But, one day several years later he is home, he stays home from a battle that he is suppose to be at and he gets in trouble. Why? because he lost his passion. He got distracted. You can read about him in the books of 1 & 2 Samuel, he ends up losing a son, murdering a man. But yet the bible calls him a man after God’s own heart, not only once in the bible but twice. 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22. Why? Because over in Psalms scholars say that he wrote these words after he made all those mistakes. ” Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10.
I don’t know about you but in my life I have made some mistakes, not that my laziness of not working out when I should or failing to meal prep correctly is going to send me to hell, but it does stop me from having the abundant life that I could have. Just like my friends who fall away and return to some of their old ways. They aren’t able to live the abundant life God has planned for them.
I don’t know if you have ever lost your passion for something, but static’s show that by the end of January the fitness clubs aren’t as full as they were on January 1 and I am willing to bet there is something you have lost your passion for. I am even willing to bet maybe your aren’t serving Christ with the same vigor and determination you once had. You have gotten lazy in your personal bible study. You have been laxed at going to church, maybe you have even given up on God because something happened that you just didn’t understand why. Let me encourage you to get back to giving God 150% of you! Let’s make this New Year the Year we go all the way.
We were living in Atlanta at the time and marrying a southern man I never expected to live anywhere else but the south until, that infamous phone call came. It was so long ago, telephones hung on your wall. We call them landlines now, and if you lived back then, you might have had one in several rooms of your home. We had one in the front of the house in the kitchen and another in the back of the house in a bedroom. My parents had two as well in there home where they lived in Kansas.
One day my parents and Jeff and I were having what we would now call a conference call when each of us just got on one of those phones connected to the wall in our home and we all talked to each other. In the process of the call my parents once again invited us, or maybe it would be better described as begged us to move up to Kansas where they had retired. Being raised an only child and now having the only grandchild, my parents were desperate for us to move closer to them. But I was confident that was never going to happen. I knew our fate was destined to stay in the big city. I was completely okay with that because I had been to Kansas (as my grandparents and extended family lived there) and there was nothing there I wanted.
Once again my parents were asking, but I was convinced that I would, as my parents had, live so far away from my family that we would simply only see each other once or twice a year. Until, Jeff told my parents “Well, I tell you what, if you find me a job up there we will move” I didn’t say anything while we were talking to them on the phone, but as soon as we got off I asked Jeff “You were just pacifying my parents right? We aren’t moving to Kansas, are we? To which Jeff responded ” Yep! We’re moving!” I immediately reminded him that Kansas was in the North and we lived in the South. Because I was certain he had lost his mind for a moment. In my attempt to bring him back to reality I reminded him of all the reasons why we would need to stay in Atlanta, before moving back to the forgotten world of this place they called Kansas.
Finally, after much aggravation on my part, Jeff just said ” I feel like God wants us to move to Kansas” Well, Now I was confident not only had my husband lost his mind but so had God. Because this was not in my plan and if you looked at our bank account, as I informed my husband, there wasn’t enough money for us to get down the road, let alone move from Atlanta GA to Kansas. Jeff assured me he believed this is what we were supposed to do. Still, in disbelief, I informed Jeff. Okay, I will go but only if God provides the money and you know it will take at least $2,000 to move. Confident that I would not have to worry about it happening because it was such an outrageous idea, (now I wish I would have said $10,000) I am certain God was sitting up there saying “Oh! ye of little faith” because in 2 weeks we were pulling up in a U-haul to my parent’s driveway. Miraculously, in that time God provided the money and we moved. (and that is another story)
See none of that was in my plan, and even after God proved himself by providing the money for us to move, I was still in doubt and confused as to why God was taking us to Kansas. Frankly, I did not want to move here even though it is my birthplace. But God began to uncover His plan for us just 6 weeks later. When my mother, in the middle of the night, called out to us from my parent’s bedroom as we slept in the next room ” Alesa, Jeff come quick your daddy is dying” As Jeff and I raced to my daddy’s side. I got to experience something I had prayed for. You see many years earlier I had prayed ” God, Please don’t let me by like my parents and live so far away that when one of them is dying we have to hurry and drive thousands of miles away just praying we get there in time.”
As Jeff and I talked after daddy’s death. He revealed to me that while he was working in Atlanta one day. He was under a house and felt like God had said ” If you want Alesa and Lee to spend any more time with her family, you need to move to Kansas and you need to move to Kansas now ” Jeff said he knew that something was gonna happen and he wanted to make sure I was with my family. There was just something about what he felt God was saying that Jeff knew we had to move. Jeff didn’t know the prayer I had prayed. But God did!
Last week I shared in this article, about how circumstances that come into our lives, might not be what we expect or even want but we can trust the one who brings them to us. Just like Joseph did as he told his brothers that God used the bad things they did, for good. (Gen 30) I can look back now and see what God was doing, and how my dream that Jeff and I being the original Chip and Joanna Gains was not in His plan! He had a greater calling for us. Kansas is where our ministry began, Kansas is where the miracle of last 2 children came, and for the past almost 30 years we have loved and lived in Kansas.
Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God said ” I know the plans I have for you” notice that word plan is plural. My daughter reminded me of that the other day. So that means God has multiple plans for us to do. If Jeff hadn’t listened to God or worst yet if he had listened to me and we had stayed in the south. I am not sure what would have happened, but I am confident of one thing, our lives would not be the same, we would not have been touched by the special people we have met here in Kansas and I hope somehow we have touched peoples lives here as well. I am so glad we can trust God’s plans for us. As we enter into 2018 let us resolve that we will trust His plan even when we don’t understand it and especially when we dislike it!