Offering Parts to Serve the Whole

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6: 11-14.

Father, let my hands be instruments to hold the young, to embrace the elderly, to wash dishes, vacuum floors for your glory.

Keep my back strong so I can lift boxes for the poor and bend low before you in humility.

Strengthen my legs to go into places where other fear to go.

Give my mouth the ability to speak the word of truth to a crooked generation.

Keep my eyes from those things that act to distract me from the Beauty of your Face.

There Is Blood On Our Hands

If you clicked over to my blog hoping to feel a little better, despite today’s title, today may not be the day for you.  The truth is, God has been ripping my heart open with the burden that is in our hands.
If you are alive and breathing in the evangelical church today then it’s likely that you have heard the statistic that there are approximately 30M slaves trapped here on earth.  Have you ever felt imprisoned by a job, a relationship, a situation and you couldn’t possibly wrap your head around trying to get out?  If you were born in a First World in a family with at least one parent,  you probably had some options: quit the job, get out of the relationship, and end the thing that is causing you so much stress.  However, the reality for these 30M people is that they cannot see a light at the end of the tunnel. 
Hope is not in their vocabulary.
There are verses after verses that resonate with mankind’s depravity and the direct result of their sin over and over again in the book of Joel.  Yes, Joel is a book that is full of hope and redemption and restoration for God’s people, but like most books of the bible it could have been written smack dab today, because of these words:
They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink. (Joel 3: 3)
Unless we know the reality of what is happening all around the world today, we might think this is some ancient hyperbole, but this is happening.  Children are being sold for nothing, their bodies abused over and over again so that we can fill our bellies and forget about out troubles. 
What will wake a sleeping nation?  Will poverty?  Will severe famine?  Will global-proportioned calamities?  Get ready:
Now what have you against me, O Tyre and Sidon and all you regions of Philistia?  Are you repaying me for something I have done?  If you are paying me back, I will swiftly and speedily return on your own heads what you have done.  For you took my silver and my gold and carried off my finest treasures to your temples.  You sold the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the Greeks, that you might send them far from their homeland.
See, I am going to rouse them out of the places to which you sold them, and I will return on your own heads what you have done.  I will sell your sons and daughters to the people of Judah, and they will sell them to the Sabeans, a nation far away. 
The Lord has spoken. (Joel 3:7-8)
This is not a scare tactic; this is the word of the Living God.  If we allow these atrocities to go on, modern-day slavery in our own towns, then we are asking for the same to happen to our children.
I don’t think that this post could have come at a more appropriate time, this weekend, 20,000 young adults were sardined into an arena in downtown Atlanta  hearing this message of abolition and signing this manifesto:
God, give me the desire to know you more
God, give me a greater love for the church, the body of Christ
God, give me a desire to lift up your name above all other names.
God, cause my life to me an unmistakable source of grace and hope to those around me.
God, kindle in me the desire to go anywhere, at any time, at any cost to do anything to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.
Coinciding with the weekend we celebrate a man who died for his belief that all men were created equally and therefore should be treated equally. 
I’ve been waiting for days to publish this post because of questions like:
What can I do?
Will I be a hypocrite if I alert/remind the world to a problem and yet do nothing about it myself? 
Truthfully, in my mind, doing something means organizing a protest, a fundraiser, starting a petition, appearing before congress, but this is what my mother reminded me of as we were on the phone  talking about this load that I carry for wanting to make the world right and see that children don’t suffer and women are empowered and that the evil get their just desserts and every one sleeps well on full tummies, she said to me these words:
“It reminds me to pray more fervently, more frequently.”
We forget about the power of our prayers.
When we go back to scripture we see that prayer released two men from prison, allowed an old woman to see her Savior face-to-face in the fullness of time, brought a dead boy back to life through the life’s breath of a prophet and a prayer of thankfulness fed 5,000 people.
We forget these things, like our stubborn bull headed/bull-horned veracity will change anything over humble contrition on our knees before a God that has been performing these miracles for thousands of years.  So, if you are like me, here are 21 ways to address the gravity of this problem, but if you are like my mom, which I think everyone should be, let us bow before the Father and ask:
Father, this nation does not deserve the blessing and prosperity that you pour out upon it.  We deserve judgment and Hell.  Yet you love us.  Lord, you love these people who are being forced to work for nothing, you love the child who has just been sold.  You heal the brokenhearted and you bind up their wounds.  Have pity on us, Father, have pity on our nation and protect our children, free those we love and those we have never met from the hands of their oppressors.  Bring each one of these 30M people into physical freedom and spiritual freedom that is only found in you.  Amen.

Lovely Things About Getting Older

I celebrated a birthday a few days ago and it was pretty low-key, cupcakes at a good friend’s house and a hotel stay in Charlotte on our way back from up North.  The lady at the hotel asked if I had any big plans for my birthday, I turned to little A and said, “I think hot chocolate is on the agenda.”  And indeed it was, as well as a little jumping on the bed-c’mon it’s my birthday!

Almost every time I tell people my birthdate, they get this kind of sad, empathetic look in their eyes and question, “Is it hard to have your birthday that close to Christmas?”

No way, man.  It’s awesome as a matter of fact.  Here’s the way I’ve started to look at it the last two years and it makes it beautiful in fact: with it being some close to Christmas and the New Year, I look at each birthday as a brand-new start, a way to have totally new start, and it’s makes me that much more excited to celebrate it.  Getting older has also made me cement some things I’ve suspected about myself:

1) I hate shopping.  If I’m in a store other than the grocery store for more than twenty minutes, there’s a good chance I’ll be hiving up (pretty sure this term is in a medical dictionary somewhere) and experiencing shortness of breath.  You will not find me shopping on my birthday on my own volition.  Give me the quiet loneliness of a Dollar General isle, the laid-back atmosphere of a Goodwill or the library checkout line–I’m telling you, I’m a cheap date.

2) I prefer being outside to most anything.  There are no checkout lines in the great outdoors.


You Didn’t Do This, God Did

I don’t know if it’s the below freezing temps here in ATL, or what, but I’ve been in a little bit of a funk these last 24 hours.  It wasn’t until I read two verses in the middle of Joseph’s story in Genesis, did I get a new perspective on adversity and shed some light on a some bad attitudes that have contributed to the funk.
Just to give you a recap of his life, I’ve highlighted the most important events that we see in Genesis 37-47:
-Joseph receives a beautiful, colorful coat from his father, Jacob, and reveals his dreams to his brothers about them bowing down before him someday
-His jealous brothers threw him into a pit and subsequently sold him into slavery when Joseph was 17
-Joseph is taken to Egypt
-Served Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard faithfully
-Is accused of seducing Potiphar’s wife
-He is thrown back into a place of imprisonment
-During his jail time, he is made supervisor of all the other inmates
-While in jail, Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker and receives a promise from the cupbearer that he will be remembered once the cupbearer gets out of prison
-The cupbearer breaks his promise
-Years later, as the Pharaoh needs a dream interpreter, Joseph performs this task perfectly
-He is appointed to the highest position in Egypt at the age of 30, amassing huge quantities of grain throughout Egypt in order to prepare for a seven year famine following seven years of plenty
-His brothers come to him, two years into the famine, pleading with Joseph to sell them some grain and from Joseph’s generosity, he saves not only his own family, but an entire nation of people.
You might be thinking several times throughout the narrative, “Gee whiz, couldn’t this guy catch a break?” If you look at these events as a whole, it’s a crazy coaster.
It seems that Joseph was treated unfairly as soon as he slipped that lovely jacket around his shoulders. But I want to go just a little bit deeper to get to the core of how I believe we need follow Joseph’s example in handling adversity:
1) Remain Sensitive-It’s easy to allow our hearts to become hardened after betrayal, to refuse to give or accept love, but we know that Joseph remained sensitive because he breaks down into tears twice while meeting with his brothers and had to excuse himself.  For twenty-two years, his heart never left his family.
2) Continue to Give Generously-Throughout his life, Joseph was in a continual state of captivity–in jail or in service to an Egyptian official, but throughout, Joseph gave his all, in his duties to Potiphar, to the head jailer, to strangers and inmates and finally to Pharaoh in a country not his own. 
Joseph was able to do these two things because he remembered:
3) Anything that Happens to You is Not outside of the Sovereign Will of God.  To me, these two verses are some of the most powerful of the whole story, ones, certainly that should be written on the tablet of our hearts:
“But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but GOD.” (Genesis 45: 7-8 emphasis mine)
We may think that our adverse conditions or circumstances are a direct result of someone else’s decisions or behaviors, and ostensibly, they may be, but God has a bigger, truer plan in all of it and for that I am grateful.

Five Ways to Keep in Step With the Spirit in 2014

Over the holidays, I found myself becoming apathetic about most things: my fitness, good eating habits, and yes, even trying to post for the blog. 
Thankfully, I came upon this terrific sermon by John Piper on Jonathan Edwards, who was an incredibly disciplined individaul when it came to studying God’s word.  The sermon in itself is a wonderful piece of work, but tucked in the end was a Q&A session from the audience, and Dr. Piper gave this brilliant acronym for working in the Power of the Holy Spirit:
Admit that you cannot do whatever it is you want to do without Christ
Prayfor Assistance, Help, Enablement to do that task
Trust in a particular promise of God to help you in that situation (i.e. Philippians 4: 6-7 Do not be anxious about anything,but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. )
Act.  Get up, do it. There is no passivity here, and in the words of Dr. Piper, “Don’t wait for the Holy Spirit to kick you in the butt.”
Thank the Lord that you’ve had the wherewithal to do it.

Has this helped with a particular task that you’ve been meaning to address in a while?  Please share, and I hope you’ll be able to apply this throughout this year.

Happy 2014!!