WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Our church (First Baptist Jenks) has been doing a series called “Who’s Your One?”  It is a focus on personal evangelism, and was born out of our pastor’s heart to reach those who don’t know Christ as Savior and Lord. He is equipping us to share our personal story with that “one” person God lays on our heart.

Why are we so reluctant to share our spiritual journey when we are so eager to share every other aspect of our lives?  Just take a look at social media!  We share EVERTHING!  In fact we sometimes over share.  I confess to being one of the guilty ones.  I love sharing both my random and more profound thoughts.  I like sharing pictures of my family, beautiful vacation spots, and even my dogs.  And, by the way, I love seeing what you post.  And we share in our conversations.  We share where to get the best deals, the best service, the best food or the best workout.  So with all this sharing going on, why is it so hard to talk about God?  What are we afraid of?

We are afraid we won’t do it right, that we will mess it up somehow.  If I am just telling my unique story, how am I going to do it wrong?  I just tell a few details about my life before I became a Christian, how I came to know Jesus, and a little about what life has been like since.  Or if I am talking with someone going through a trial, I may talk about how the Lord walked with me through something similar.  Jesus told us to share as we go (Matt 10:7).  As we are going about our daily business we are to share the gospel. We sometimes think it has to be a formal presentation.  It doesn’t have to be a knock-on-the-door-hit-them-on-the-head-with-a-King-James-Bible thing.  In fact, I think that is where we often get it wrong.  Just share as you go.  That requires stepping out of my own life and actually noticing people.

We are afraid of offending someone.  Or we are afraid of looking foolish.  Guess what? Those things will happen.  The message of the cross is offensive to those who do not believe.  “How can you say there is only one way to God?”  Because Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  And to the intellectuals, the simplicity of the gospel sounds senseless.  “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).  Yes, some will be offended, and some will think we are just plain dumb.  But we must share anyway.

We are afraid we don’t know enough about the Bible.  One of my favorite quotes is from D. T. Niles: “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”  You don’t have to understand everything involved in bread making to show someone where to get bread.  You just share your own hunger, how you found it, and where they can get it.  Just share what you know.  You need to be able to have some scriptures ready to share, but it doesn’t have to be a lot.  When I share my story, I quote the verses that moved me, that led me to salvation.

Maybe we are afraid of revealing too much about ourselves, afraid of being vulnerable.  Listen; if you are a Christian, someone took a risk with you.  It could be the neighbor who took notice of you, the friend who invited you to coffee, or the pastor who took the risk of setting his life course in the direction of winning lost souls.  When you share your story, it strengthens you.  Our speaker yesterday said, “Your story should overwhelm you.”  I wish I could tell my story without choking up, but when I think of what God has done in my life I am blown away.  Maybe you think your story is not dramatic enough.  Perhaps you were brought up in a Christian home, came to Christ as a child, and have lived a pretty good life.  The drama is what God saved you from! You were saved from the wrong turns in life, from the damage of sin, and most of all, from the fires of hell. 

So in our church, we have been encouraged to ask God to give us One.  Give us one person to be burdened for, to pray for, and to share with. I know who my One is.  I have told him where the bread is.  The rest is up to God.     

GIRLFRIENDS

This morning as I was listening to the words of I Need Thee Every Hour, I thought about how God is always ready to meet my deepest needs, often before I ask or am even aware of them.  For the past week or so I have been blessed with an abundance of girl time.  It wasn’t really planned to happen all at once…I guess it was just God’s timing. So I’ve had a couple of lunches and even a precious sleepover, a grown-up slumber party.  Some of these girls have been my friends for years and years. Others have been more casual friends, but these friendships have been deepened in the last few days.  I have even been blessed with a new friend.

When I was getting my degrees I had to lay my friendships down for a while.  It was a conscious but difficult decision.  I just didn’t have the time.  Every day was a school day, and for two years those days included a commute to Stillwater and back.  Nights and weekends were for studying, family, and church.  There just weren’t enough hours for joining the ladies who lunch. I say that as if girl lunches are a frivolous thing but to me, they are precious.  However I had to put them on the back burner even after I got my doctorate. Because after school came a time of getting licensed and growing a psychology practice, although I was able to squeeze in a ladies Bible study for a few years.  But life got busy, so I felt I needed to give that up too.

These days I am winding down my career and looking forward to retirement.  And I am finding more time for my women friends.  And I have gone back to that ladies Bible study.  There is just something so special about girl time, the time with trusted friends that allow you to let your hair down and be real.  These are unguarded moments, bound by our love for the Lord.  When we get together we laugh and we cry.  We share our secrets, our hurts, our failures and victories, our fears, and most of all, we share our God.  We pray together.  We pray for each other and for the families we have.  Yesterday a sweet friend showed me a prayer list she carries around on a note card.  She has had it for years.  I recognized many of the names on that card, including my daughters and grandchildren. I had no idea that she had been praying for them all this time.  Another friend has been a mentor and special friend to one of my girls, and I have a special love for her daughter.

As I think about these friendships, I see how God has worked to bring us together.  We have all been interconnected even though we may not have known it.  It may have seen like chance at the time, but looking back I can see His design.  One woman has sweetly pursued time with me. We have a friend in common and the three of us have determined to get together once a month.  Another woman has been walking parallel to me many for many years, but for some of those years we were merely acquaintances.  At one time she actually lived around the corner.    Now I realize the Lord was trying to get my attention.  “You need her in your life!”   I get it, Lord.  A brand new friend hugged me and said how happy she is that God put us together.  I look forward to that friendship deepening.   

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful women in my family.  I know they have special roles in my life, but I actually likethem.  There is nothing as special as a day with my daughters and granddaughters. Sisters, nieces, and cousins, and those special women who are no longer with us…God has blessed me with many wise and wonderful women.

So this morning in my prayer journal I wrote a thank you note to God.  I thank him for the friendship of godly women.  Some friends I get to see every Sunday at church, while others live far away…one even in Kenya.  Some I haven’t seen in a long time but I still carry them in my heart. I know I could call on them in a time of need, and they could do the same with me.  I have sweet friends I have known since high school, and though I don’t get to see them very often, I still count them as treasured friends. When we get together we pick up right where we left off.  These friends nurture my soul.  I pray the words of the hymn, “God be with Thee till we meet again.”  

I have decided that girl time is essential.  I hope to be a better friend and to do a better job of cultivating and maintaining friendships.  And I pray that I will be aware when God brings an important relationship right in front of my face.  I need my tribe of special women.

WANT STORMS

I want a new car.  I want to take a cruise.  I want a designer handbag, a kitchen remodel..no a bigger house, a boat…heck, make that a yacht!  I want, I want, I want!  Does any of this sound familiar?  Everyday we are assaulted with advertisements designed to convince us that we need more stuff, more exciting experiences. If you dwell on these messages you might even convince yourself that you are entitled to these things.  And if all these messages were not enough, you have the Joneses.  You know, those friends and acquaintances that have the shiny new thing.  The upwardly mobile that keep attaining higher status, while you stay stuck in the same place.

This morning while I was getting dressed I was daydreaming about something I want to do, a place I want to go.  The longer I thought about it, the more it changed from a daydream to an actual plan. I’m really ashamed to admit this, because I get to go a lot.  It’s not like I’m travel-deprived.  But before I could start googling hotels, the Holy Spirit chimed in.  “Have you talked to the Lord about this?  Is this the best way to spend money?  Is there something else you should be doing?  Then I remembered a Bible verse:

Godliness with contentment is great gain1 Timothy 6:6 NIV

The New Living Translation specifies “true godliness,” and “great wealth.”  God wants me to seek Him, not more stuff.  He wants me to experience contentment.  Contentment is a great feeling. It is awareness that I have everything I need. It is a stillness of soul.  But when I get caught in a “want storm,” it doesn’t feel good.  A want storm is an endless craving for more and more, bigger and better, shinier and prettier.  And that craving is never satisfied with material things.  

God desires to give me “great wealth.”  The truth is, He has already provided it, He just wants me to be aware, to experience it. A few weeks ago I received a phone call at work from an attorney in Canada looking for an heir to an estate he was representing.  Even though I knew there was no way it could be me, for a brief second I had that “what if” feeling, excitement over a surprise bequest.  I think we have all had that fleeting thought of inheriting from a long-lost uncle.  Well Jesus, as my Elder Brother has left me a fortune!  When I am sitting quietly with Him, I have access to it.  And I am then gratefully aware of all the blessings He has bestowed on me.  I am content.

Lord, forgive me for the times I get caught up in wanting material things that never satisfy.  Teach me to be always aware of the difference between wants and needs.  Create a spirit of gratitude in me so that I am always mindful of my blessings.  Teach me “true godliness” and help me to seek after it.  And thank you for the “great wealth” that comes with knowing You.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.   Phil. 4:19 NLT

THOSE WHO WAITED

Today is the 75thanniversary of D-Day.  I’ve been watching and listening to the television coverage, thankful that I get to see the ceremonies.  I marvel at the courage of those young men—boys really—who jumped into those landing crafts, knowing they stood a good chance of being killed.  The tributes from dignitaries have told their stories far better than I can.  But as I listen to these remarkable stories I can’t help but think about those who waited at home.

They didn’t have 24-hour television news.  They had radios and they watched newsreels at the movies.  What was it like to listen to the radio coverage and wonder if your son, husband, brother, or neighbor was on those beaches?  Those who waited also made great sacrifices.  I think of those of the World War I generation like my grandparents.  They knew about war first hand, having endured “the war to end all wars.”  And now they were called to offer up their sons. I remember my grandmother telling me that all the boys who went to war came home changed.  How could they not be changed?  My grandmother knew if her sons came home, they would be different.  

Her generation waited. John Milton said it best: “They also serve who only stand and wait.”  But while they waited they prayed, they served in USOs, they clipped ration coupons, some went to work, and they waited for letters to let them know their loved ones were still alive.  I think of my paternal grandmother, a widow with only one living child, my father who went to war at eighteen.  She sacrificed.  I think of my mom’s mother who had one son in Europe, another in the Pacific, and a daughter who waited for word of her young husband.  The waiting must have been agonizing.  Although technically not a part of the Greatest Generation, they too were great.  They were called upon to be brave, and if necessary, to make the ultimate sacrifice of their children.  So to those who waited, I also say thank you for your sacrifice.  

Today is a day to remember, but to also pray.  As I offer a prayer of gratitude to God for deliverance from evil, I also pray for our world, that we may never do this again.  I pray for peace and freedom, but I know that peace and freedom come with a high cost.  Just ask those who waited.