Swept Away By the Lord & In Fellowship

sweptawayretreat

I am a big fan of Conferences and Retreats, they are places where we get to pull away from the every day and put all of our focus on Him.  There are no distractions, there are no interruptions.  They are an opportunity for total immersion into fellowship with your brethren in Christ as well as God himself.

This weekend, my home church held a women’s retreat.  We were blessed that a few other local small churches joined us for this time of fellowship and communion.

Speaker Michelle Howe pointed us toward having a “Swept Away” life in the Lord.   It is easy to be swept away by the world, the enemy… but it is a great thing to be swept away into relationship with God.  She suggested these daily actions:

  1. REJOICE (Isaiah 44:2) — the Lord has swept away our sins, therefore we have cause to sing for joy!  Rejoice in thanksgiving, prayers, song, praises, gratitude.
  2. REBUILD (Nehemiah) — when our walls are dropped, we rebuild them with HOPE that is found in the Lord and find we are restored.
  3.  RENAME (1 Cor 5:17) — we are a new creation in Christ, the new is here and the old is gone.  Our new name is Image Bearer, Christ Follower… not the labels of our oldself.

She then had the women at each table write their name at the top of a piece of paper.  Then, we were to pass them to our right.  As we received another woman’s paper, we were to allow the spirit to lead us to a word or statement about that woman… and write it down.  I’ve done this exercise before, but it has always been with a group of women that know me.  This time, with so many women at the event, many of us were seated among women we had never met or at least didn’t know very well.

After we received our paper back, we were instructed to circle 3 things… a statement that surprised us, a statement we expected, and a statement that we longed for.  What I found interesting was that the word I circled that surprised me, was the same thing I knew the Lord has been working on in me.  PATIENCE.  I don’t see myself as patient, but I have released my need to know and control the Lord.  It was interesting that someone would see that in me, a work that is coming to fruition.  The second word, was something I expected which was STUDENT.  I’m a student of the word in many ways.   But the third, the thing that I longed for someone to see in me was CHRIST.  In the past, when I’ve done this exercise… I’ve gotten a lot of great compliments.  But I’ve always longed for CHRIST LIKE to be in that list.  It’s been a “few” years since I’ve completed this exercise… and a woman wrote I was “light, like a city on a hill”.  It means my love for Christ, is no longer something that is inside of me… but a light that shines for others to see.  PRAISE GOD.

You can view Michelle’s full presentation notes here:  How to Live a Swept Away Life

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A member of our church then shared her testimony, and I’ll respect that sharing by letting her story remain her’s to tell.  But I wanted to share a few things that I took away from it personally.

  • We do not fool the believers around us.  Whether we speak up or not, believers can sense when we are struggling and will pray on our behalf.  The Lord brings our names to the attention of our intercessors in the church.  You have people praying for you, and you may not know it.
  • We swim at our own risk.  We may see the signs that the waves are dangerous, we know what lurks in the ocean.  We may dip our toes in the ocean of sin, slowly walking deeper and deeper.  There will be those of us who feel a little nibble, take heed, and return to shore.  Yet, some of us will continue to wade deeper, ignoring the bites.  We may not be paying attention to the waves coming overhead… or we are pulled into the riptide.  Taken deeper, unable to save ourselves from our circumstances.  Life may be a “swim at your own risk” event, but Jesus is the Life Guard who is always on duty.
  • Pursue the Lord in PRAYER, HIS WORD, IN RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM

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Speaker and Counselor, Amy Oliver spoke directly to my heart as she engaged us on the importance of seeking God directly in His Word, as well as a solid perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman.   Some highlights of her presentation:

  • Knowing who Jesus is, and being thankful for Jesus is not enough.  We must be in active submission to His Lordship.
  • Our prayer accepting Christ as our savior is not a stopping point, but a launching point.
  • The Word constantly and consistently calls us to RETURN TO GOD, to FOLLOW JESUS.
  • There is a difference between REGRET (being caught) and REPENT (broken and called to change).
  • His Word helps us to not only know WHO God is but to recognize the counterfeit that the world and enemy will try and sell us.
  • The fruit of our spirit is not a works based faith, but instead a natural response to act in obedience to the Lord.
  • In Christ there is REAL FREEDOM, in the enemy/the world there is an ILLUSION of freedom (but a price will be paid).
  • Good Christian things can become an IDOL in our lives if we allow them to take precedence first and foremost over our personal, devoted time to God.

A Proverbs 31 Woman is:

  • FIXED – she is rooted/grounded/secure in her role as an image bearer.
    • Women have a tendency to shift their identity as their circumstances or seasons of life shift.  If our identity is in Christ, then we need not shift but be rooted, so that no matter how things shift or change… we are still first an image bearer.
    • Women’s image or worth is not found in comparison with other women or the amount of likes a photo or story gets on social media.
    • Media tries to tell us who we SHOULD BE, God tells us WHO WE ARE.
    • The standards of the word are cheap, and they don’t last.
    • God knows our BEST, he is our MEASURE or STANDARD
  • FOCUSED – she is focused on HER mission, not the mission or calling of others.
    • Her success is not based on the success of her husband, her children, or her activities.  Her success is based on the mission the Lord has given her, thus what things we say YES to matters, why we say YES matters.
    • Requests of her time are weighed against her God given mission, she seeks the kingdom first.
    • Her life looks distinctly different from non-believers because she is mission focused.  Distinctly different, reflecting him, illustrating redemption.
  • FIERCE – she is fiercely dedicated to her task, she is not distracted or strayed.
    • She does not multi-task between her walk with God and the ways of the world, it is impossible to do so.  She is sold out for the better, kingdom calling… abandoning the world for Him.
    • She doesn’t have a guilty pleasure that is of the world, because she knows that it bears no fruit.  It does not set her apart from the world as a redeemed follower.
    • She does not repeat bad choices or behavior with a false expectation that this time it will turn out differently.  She knows the result of all sin is the same.
    • She wears the full armor of God, saturating herself in the Word.
  • FEARLESS – she is not afraid of this world, but fears the Lord.
    • Fear of the world = anxiety, depression, worry, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord = awe, reverence, worship, trust, etc.
    • Fear of the Lord casts out all other fears from the world.

When we have an encounter with God, we are changed.  There is a visible and noticeable difference.  How do we encounter God, how are we changed?

  • Know Him in His Word – evaluate the things in your life closely to know if this is something wasteful or worthy.  Anything outside of Jesus is fake, when we know Him through his word and our relationship with him, we can identify what is false and counterfeit.
  • Know Your Place in Him – Image bearer, then wife, then mother… and so on.  You are a priority to God, He gave his son for you.  Find your value and worth in knowing you are a priority to God, not based on what the world sells as valued.  Don’t try to be someone else, envious of their gifts and talents.  Instead, know what you are good at and DO IT.
  • Know How to Care for Yourself – your spiritual health is important, be intentional about your time with God, take a break away and invest in your spiritual health.  Jesus often retreated to be alone with God, to hear from Him and be away from the noise and distraction of the world.   When our spiritual health is in check we are mission focused, dedicated in prayer, deepening our relationship with Jesus.  Learn to set boundaries.  Find contentment with what the Lord has blessed you with instead of what others have that you lack.

Thoughts => Feelings => Beliefs => Words => Actions => Habits => Character => Destiny

(=> means influences, builds)

You can view Amy Oliver’s full presentation notes here:  Swept Away!

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This will be continued on Thursday with some take away notes from our breakout discussions/presentations.

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

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A good blogger considers the statistics of their site, they want to see how many views the blog is getting.  We can even look to see which posts are getting the most attention, feedback, or views.   This helps the blogger get an idea of who their audience is and what they are interested in reading.  From this information we can mold future stories to fit the demographic of our readers.

That is what a good blogger does anyway.  Many months ago, another blogger challenged me to not look at my numbers but instead to look to the locations my readers were coming from. 

The photo above is a screenshot of every country that had at least one person access my blog in 2015.  My eyes opened.  Over forty countries were represented, even in my wildest of dreams I couldn’t imagine going on over forty missions trips in a year.   I couldn’t imagine a single speaking engagement from 2015 that would have given me access to people from all over the world.

I realize a greater responsibility for my words now that I see the weight of such a blog.  I sit here, typing, as  representative of Christ.  A witness to my home town, state, country and the ends of the worth.  This means that I must make the greatest effort in ensuring that I handle the word of God with accuracy and humility.  I need to handle hard topics with sensitivity to culture and in submission to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. 

As I move forward in 2016, I will remind myself of something our Pastor says often at the close of service…   “The Mission Field Starts Here”.

Conditions, Conditions, Conditions

MBA

Something that has always rubbed me the wrong way are conditional agreements.  I’m not talking about contracts where each side is negotiating their terms.  What I am talking about are those moments when you ask someone for a favor, and they respond with “only if you will….”.   Or, even better, when someone approaches you to do a kind deed and then slips in the terms.  I just don’t like it.

I think it is because I don’t operate that way.  If you ask for a favor, I am going to say yes or no… but my answer is not going to be dependent on what you can do for me.  If I do a favor for you, it is because I want to help not because I want something out of it.

If you do me a favor, I only want you to do it if you want to.  It’s a heart issue, I suppose.  I was always taught to give without expectation of return, even if what I was giving was my time.  As an adult I learned to give money instead of loaning it.  I also learned how to value my time better so that I didn’t say yes to everything and burn myself out.  It also meant I learned how to accept no as an answer without getting upset.

I’ve also learned over the years I don’t like conditions in other aspects of relationships.  I don’t want to be your friend, if the conditions are that I must agree with everything you say and do.  I don’t want to be your friend if I have to change who I am in order for us to keep the peace.

I just hate conditions.  I also think that is the absolute beauty in God’s gift of salvation, and His love for His children.  God did give us conditions.  The Ten Commandments and The Great Commission, for example.  However, what the Old Testament Reveals to us is that as much as man tries, he is virtually incapable of following them.  He knew this, and still loved us anyway.  He knew this was an impossibility for us, and gave us His son to bear our iniquities.

This is not an excuse that allows us to continue to live in the flesh, in spite of His conditions.  It is an assurance that even though we can’t, His love doesn’t waiver.  Our salvation doesn’t balance the line of conditions, fluctuating based on our ability to walk that line.  Our salvation hung on a cross.

#Write31Days Challenge – Post 29 – Very Important Note

biblenotgena

An author and speaker that I follow, Carlos Whittaker, shared a picture similar to the one above on his Facebook page.  I was so taken with the simplicity of the message, I grabbed every Bible I own, and added the same message.

God created the heavens and the earth… Not Gena.

It really couldn’t be any simpler than that.  I didn’t create the world, I didn’t go through six days of ordered creation, nor did I take a day of rest.  I was not there in the beginning.  I didn’t have anything to do with that process.

Yet, humanity continually tries to rewrite history and rewrite His order into a way that makes sense to our own understanding.

His ways are not our ways.  His understanding is not His understanding.

We are a people entirely INCAPABLE of following the will of God (since the day man walked in the Garden of Eden with God), and yet some how we think that gives us the authority to change HIS creation, HIS order, and HIS statutes to fit the world and according to our standards.

In comparison to God, our standards are very low.

In comparison to God, our knowledge is very limited.

In comparison to God, our perspective is very subjective.

Our view of the world, and how we are apart of it, should never be based on how want God to fit into our own reasoning.  Instead, we must put aside our own reasoning, and look to the word of God.

There is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we deal with today, every sin and controversy, has been written about in the scriptures.  Time and culture haven’t changed all that much.  It is man who changes.  The further we get from that direct relationship with God that early Christians knew… the more we want God to fit into our ways & beliefs.  

God is unchanging.  His response to sin and controversy in the scriptures hasn’t changed, because His word is true.  If it was a sin then, it is a sin now.  Period.

#Write31Days – Post 13 – When the Church Says No

tgcarticle

I was reading the above article, on the website for The Gospel Coalition.  The gist of the article was that members of the body with artistic talents are often discouraged in using their gifts within the church.  It could be an art form that is not really understood, or that the church staff don’t know how to actually include it into the service of the church.  It isn’t always that they don’t want to, they just may not know how to.

But I would challenge that is discouragement isn’t just for those who have artistic gifts, but any gift or talent that isn’t being utilized.  I have been in churches that were welcoming of gifts and talents & would utilize them if the person was willing to commit.  I’ve also been in churches that will dismiss the gifts they don’t understand or can’t seem to figure out how that gift fits in to the vision of the church.

From an artistic standpoint, I can totally understand.  As a professionally trained actress, who also has ample back stage experience,  I have offered my gift to churches in the past.  Some embraced it with open arms, others dismissed it as something not relevant.  Dismissed so quickly that I never even had the opportunity to explain that expertise.  In 2005, I directed a Christmas musical for the church we were attending at the time.  It just so happened that at one showing there was a television producer in the audience.  He loved the show, and they came back and filmed it.  They ran it every few days, where they had an empty slot, all the way through Christmas Day.

That was an exciting day for me.  Yet, too often, when I share with a church or ministry that I have a theater background they instantly want to put me in charge of a children’s production.  That is NOT my specialty, it is not my gift.  They do not understand the impact that LIVE performance can have on a group of people.  Perhaps this is because too few churches have trained professionals, maybe they haven’t enough trust in the quality or commitment.  What saddens me is to be shot down before you even get a chance to try.  The Lord blessed me with a gift, specifically a talent, one that I want to use for HIS glory.   It is sad to see it get brushed aside because someone else doesn’t “get it”.

Being dismissed and discouraged is not only an issue with the arts, but can come about in many different forms.  I watched my husband’s spirit get completely squashed by a men’s ministry leader because he made an assumption about my husband without even getting to know him.  What most don’t know about my husband is that he has the ability to talk to anyone about God.  It’s really amazing.  I envy his boldness at times.  Every day he is out among the community, doing his job, and sharing the gospel where he can.  He has prayed with people, give them encouragement, and even his own Bible if they didn’t have one.

He can do this because God gifted him in that manner.  My husband also went through Evangelism Explosion training to learn how to present the gospel to every day people in a way that they would understand.  Bringing them through the steps from accepting Christ, to getting plugged into a church, and more.  When we were married and our family was growing, a huge burden was on my husband’s shoulders.  He became lukewarm, going through the motions.  One weekend he went with a men’s ministry to a conference, and my husband was ON FIRE.  He was ready to get back on the horse.

The leader of the ministry didn’t know my husband that well.  He assumed that my husband was caught up in emotions.  Since he didn’t take the time to really listen to my husband, to ask any questions about his experience… the man quickly extinguished that fire.  My husband said “I’m ready to serve.  Where can I plug in????”

The ministry leader patted him on the shoulder and said:  “No brother, where can we serve you.”   My husband wasn’t even given the chance to share who he was, or the gift that God has given him.  To this day, my husband has not stepped forward since.  He was rejected.  Instead, he has become my biggest supporter and advocate.    Instead, he has continued to share the gospel in his every day encounters.

One church damaged my husband, and he just hasn’t recovered.  Over the years, he has had ideas for ministries where he could serve people in our church or community.  However, that inspiration is fleeting.

I believe that we have to be very cautious as a church to NOT allow our vision for the church become tunnel vision.  We must be open to see how the different gifts and talents of the body can be used in that vision.  It is easy to see things our way, within our own understanding and abilities.  It is easy to see how things ought to go and progress, and make a list of what gifts and talents are needed to move that vision forward.  It isn’t always easy to see how the gifts of others can fit into that vision, or be molded into that vision.   If we see things too black and white, we miss the many gifts that fall in the middle.

As leaders we need to be careful with the gifts and offers of service from others.  We need to not just immediately dismiss a person because at first we can’t see how their gift fits the vision.  We need to not dismiss a person as a capable kingdom worker without taking the time to get to know them.  We may be throwing away the most amazing gifts… and affecting people in ways we never realize.

This doesn’t mean we throw caution to the wind, accepting any and everything.  We can be judicious and gracious at the same time.

  •  Thank the person for offering their gift or talent to the church/ministry.
  • Ask them questions about their experience or training.
  • Get an idea of how they think their gift or talent could fit within the vision of the church, or help the ministry/community.
  • Take some time to really think about the conversation, pray about it.  Is there room for this ministry idea?  If not, is there an existing ministry that we can plug this person into that fulfills their desire to serve with their gift.
  • Follow up with the person, and be honest.  If you are not sure how it fits the vision, talk to them about it.  They may see something you don’t.  If now isn’t the right time, agree to revisit it in 3 – 6 months.  If you require more information, ask for it and take the time to review it.
  • If this is a brand new member of the church, and you are uncertain of commitment, have them go through the new members class and plug into a small group.  Let them know you want to get to know them better, and let them get acquainted with the church first.  Then you can talk ministry work.

 

#Write31Days – Post 12 – Offending the Offendable

offendable

It was well over twenty years ago, when I would I would dye my hair bright teal.  For the record, I knew that it would get some judgmental stares.  I fully anticipated it, and I also didn’t care in the least.   A few years later, I would walk into a tattoo shop and walk back out with black ink permanently embedded into my skin.  I knew that some wouldn’t appreciate the art I had etched into my body, but I didn’t care what people thought as a whole.  As of today, I have a few more tattoos.  Even though they have become more mainstream than fringe, I am aware of how others still view them.

I recall sitting in a woman’s home, having coffee, as we talked about the world.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened but the subject of people with tattoos came up.  She was very judgmental of anyone with tattoos, stating that if someone from the utility companies showed up with tattoos all over … well, she wouldn’t let them in the door.  I chuckled to myself as I debated if I wanted to take off my sweater and expose my tattooed arms, or if I would save that expose’ for another day.

Here’s the thing, when I choose to do something that is outside the norm, that is considered edgy or fringe, or that is socially disapproved… I am not only choosing to do what ever that thing is.  I am also choosing to live the consequences of that choice, including how others perceive me.  I will never scoff at their remarks or stares because, that’s their problem not mine.  I am not exactly sure where we got the notion that the world has to tolerate our idiosyncrasies.  Certainly I am not going to advocate for rudeness, discrimination, et’al … it is NOT OK.  I’m simply suggesting that one can’t go against the grain and expect zero negative response at worst… or curiosity at least.

I was watching a television show on people who are “fringe” and what was interesting is that so many of the people who had tattoos spoke of an unwritten rule that we don’t ask about each others tattoos.  Not only was I unfamiliar with this rule, I didn’t get it either.  I see every tattoo as a piece of art, it has meaning and purpose for me.  So please, ask me about it.  I’ll happily share what it means to me, or answer your questions (even the absurd ones).

Questions Like:  Did it hurt a lot?  (Um, yes.)  What does it mean?  (Glad you asked…) What if your weight changes? (Kind of personal, but I considered it…)  How are you going to feel about that when you are 80?  (If I make it to 80, pretty sure my tattoos will be the least of my worries…)   Or, the big question:  Doesn’t the Bible forbid tattoos?  (Let’s sit down and talk about that one… )

There are a lot of things that any person (Christian or not) could do that is considered against the grain.  And, when we make such decisions we should expect that someone is going to question us about it.  We should expect that we are going to get stares, and that not everyone is going to understand our decision.

Have a large family? Or a family of blended races?  That’s unusual for many areas.  Expect the questions.

Decide to dress ultra conservative?  Someone might ask you why you are wearing a long sleeve turtleneck, in Florida, in July.

Choose to wear a headscarf at church, or in your every day life?  Expect someone is going to talk to you about that.

Make a major switch in your life (in one direction, or another) and people will notice.  Anticipate they are going to be curious as to why you made that decision.

Decide to sell off everything you own and follow Jesus into full time missions?  You better believe that someone is going to think you are crazy!

Where I have noticed a growing trend is that when people make these “fringe” decisions, that make them stand out against the norm, they get offended when anyone questions them about it.  You can’t be IN the world but not OF the world, and go unnoticed.  In fact, the whole point of it is TO BE NOTICED.  That our lives become a living testimony to the changes that God has done in our lives, our families, etc.  They see us as different, they want to know why.  This not the same as putting on an act of righteousness, boasting,  and showing off how holy we are.  I’m talking about real, genuine, every day living the life that God called me to, type of different.   Where we are not putting on a show for others, but just living out our every day in a different way.

The questions that we are being offended by, and offering a slew of snarky retorts in response to … are INVITATIONS TO SHARE.

Yes, these children are all mine.  Yes, some are adopted.  Yes, we are fostering a sibling group.  Why did we make this choice?  Because, the Lord pressed upon our hearts that we had enough love in our home to share.  There are so many kids in our foster system just looking for someone to love them, a place to call home.

Yes, I do have a few tattoos.  Sure, you can see it.   Yes, getting one does hurt, some areas more than others.  What does it mean?  Well, this anchor represents the fact that I am anchored by my faith, the compass reminds me of where I have been & where I am going, and the dove represents the hope I have in Christ.

Yes, we are moving to another country.  It is hard to leave our home, but we realized it was just a building.  Our hearts are not here… they are a long plane ride away.  No, not everyone is called to do this.  We prayerfully considered it and brought others in to the fold to pray along with us.  God continually affirmed the calling with his provisions, blessings, and divine appointments.

We could be offended by everything, or we can look at it is an opportunity to share.

I can be offended.

~ OR ~

I can be inviting.

Consider… if a person can’t ask you a simple question… about the size of your family, the way you dress, or about the ink on your skin…

What can they safely ask you?

When you have been snarky and responded to their questions with contempt, disgust, or curtly…   Do you really think they want to talk to you about the big stuff? Raising children?  Adoption?  Abortion?  Gay Marriage?  God and salvation through Jesus Christ?

Your quick off the cuff retorts are not inviting them into conversation.  Instead you are pushing them away, you are letting them know you are not a safe person to talk to.

And if that is how you are responding…. What kind of light are you shining in this dark world?

Ask me anything.  I won’t be offended.  I will answer your questions.  Sometimes a question is just a question, a curiosity.  Sometimes a question is an attempt to understand a person, situation, or belief better.  BUT… sometimes… a question is an invitation into a bigger and better conversation.

The Ministry of the Unnoticed (Oswald Chambers, “The Love of God”)

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Currently, I am in the midst of writing a college level course on Women’s Ministry.  As part of my research, I’ve been entrenched in statistics regarding women in the church.  What percentage of the church is made up of women?  What percentage of the church volunteers are women?  A result of that research is that I have also come across articles that address the fact that women are leaving the church.  It took me to pause for a moment, because if the statistics show that women are 55% of the church body… and this with women leaving… how much higher was that number in previous years, decades????

Scouring through these articles, I noticed a fairly common thread amongst the women who were interviewed about why the left the church… they didn’t feel valued in the church.  In other words, they didn’t feel they had a place in the church.  Or, a voice in the church.  Or, that they had anything of value to offer the church.

They felt unnoticed.  Not only when they were attending, but in their absence.  No one noticed they were gone.

I’ve been there, myself.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely NO ONE.  A church came highly recommend to us, and we attended there for over a year.  Every Sunday, when we would enter the church… we were treated like it was our very first visit.  Over 52 Sunday’s would pass… and this bright haired red head was given directions to the children’s Sunday school rooms.  Even the Sunday school teachers didn’t seem to acknowledge us as familiar faces.    We attended faithfully, every Sunday.   The only break we took was the few weeks after our third child was born.  We attended the social events too.  We were present in the church, very present.  We tithed every week, faithfully.  Yet, we never felt at home.  We never felt like we belonged.  And, when we made the decision to leave and find a different church…. no one noticed we were gone.

There was no Pastor call, or card form the children’s ministry director… wondering where we had gone.  No one was concerned for our welfare, and they didn’t even notice when the tithing checks stopped coming in.  We were literally invisible to the people we worshiped with every Sunday.

This morning I was reading through Oswald Chamber’s book, “The Love of God”, and a title chapter jumped off the page at me:

The Ministry of the Unnoticed

Chambers writes:  “Our Lord called twelve disciples – but what about all those other disciples of His that were not specifically called?  The twelve were called for a special purpose, but there were hundreds who followed Jesus – sincere believers in Him – who were unnoticed.”

Oswald Chambers first wrote about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed” in 1936, this is not a new phenomena in the church… of feeling unnoticed.  Chambers not only recognized it in his writing in 1936, but pointed it out in the very scriptures written about the foundations of Christianity.  There were thousands of people, serving Christ, who were unnoticed.  They were not written about in the scriptures by name, but referred to as “the crowd” or “the many”.  People, who were fully devoted followers of Christ… just like you and me, and history would never know their names. Yet, they were just as important in the forward movement of the church as any named disciple or apostle.

Chambers points out that those who were named were exceptions, the first or the most extraordinary conversions.  And as extraordinary as they were, they were still exceptions… not the rule.  He points out that, “The majority of us are unnoticed and unnoticeable people”.  He cautions, in his writing, that if we take these exceptions and make them our standard, we are going to create a big problem, producing the spiritually proud… departing from the good news and building on religion.

In Matthew 5:3, Chambers points out, the scriptures read “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; clarifying that in this reference we are not talking about the economically poor… but those who are spiritually poor.  And in the history of time, poor people are fairly common.  They make up the largest percentage of many populations around the world.  Chambers suggests that it is in this poverty of spirit, that we are able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, not on our good deeds… but in humble love, adoration, and faith.  The every day people, living lives for God… seemingly unnoticed people, who carry great amounts of influence.

If you have ever had a chance to talk to someone who serves in missions, particularly in the third world countries, you can get a glimpse into what joy looks like despite poverty.  People, who in comparison to us, have nothing… yet they give everything they can.  They share the burdens of the community, with smiles on their face because they are full of love.  Kids who don’t have many belongings, running around kicking a soccer ball in their village.  It may be the only soccer ball they have in the entire village, but you don’t hear complaints… instead you hear laughter and see the smiles on their face as they pass the ball back and forth.

These are people who go unnoticed, just like many of us feel, but they do not wallow in it.  They are thankful and joyful for what God has given them.  They find joy in Him, in their community, and in the fact they woke up that morning.  We like to call those simple pleasures, but  think they are more like profound pleasures.  Finding joy in the everyday, TRUE JOY, is profound.

We encounter people like this stateside too.  It’s the woman in the projects who gives everything to make sure kids in her neighborhood have a full belly and a place to sleep, taking the prodigals into the safety of her home.  It is the homeless man, who has nothing but a cart full of what looks like trash, who sits on the corner sharing Jesus with those who pass by.  He has a smile on his face, that we can’t explain.   It is the mother who takes a house and  makes it into a home, welcoming in the neighborhood kids every day.  The husband who toils hard every day to provide for his families needs, but turns down the overtime because he’d rather be home with his family than own that new piece of technology.   It is the child who keeps a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in his locker, making sandwiches for the kids in his school that don’t have lunch (true story).

Every day people, doing every day things.  Unnoticed.

Or, so we think.

Jesus notices.  It doesn’t matter what man sees or doesn’t see.  We shouldn’t be doing anything for the approval of man.

I love how Oswald addresses this point, when he states:  “The true character of the loveliness that influences for God is always unconscious.  Conscious influence is always prideful and un-Christian.   When we begin to wonder whether we are of any use, we instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord.  …  If we begin to examine our outflow, we lose touch with the source.”

What Chambers is identifying here, is that when we become so focused on what we are doing “for God” we end up having more concern about our deeds.  We are paying more attention to the results.  We are focused on what we are doing.  Then our sin nature takes over because we want credit for it. We want to be noticed for our deeds, by others.  We want to be noticed that we are different, by others.  When we care more about what others are thinking about us, than God… we become prideful.

“Look at me!”, we shout.  “Look at this good thing I did for God!”

Dangerous grounds.

Don’t get me wrong, we are called to be different.  But, the only thing we are called to shout from the roof tops is the GOSPEL!  When we starting pointing out or making a spectacle of our good works, we are taking credit … not giving credit.  Every good deed should be done with the point of proclaiming Christ, of turning the gaze off of us toward God.

When we want accolades and adoration, when we want someone to praise us for being “godly women”, and when we need affirmation of man… we are doing these good deeds for the wrong reason.

Instead, if we are people who are changed by Christ… our “goodness” is just a part of who we are.  We don’t need to draw attention to it any more than the lilies of the field need to get your attention.  It is their fragrance that will cause you turn your head toward them.  They don’t work hard to create that fragrance, it’s just part of who they are.  They don’t fight against each other, so you pick one lily over another.  You catch the smell on the breeze, and your head turns the field… and what do you see?

Hundreds of lilies, waving the breeze.

Doing nothing out of the ordinary.

They were there yesterday, here today, and will be there tomorrow.  They are not shouting for you too look at them, they don’t need your affirmation.  They are just simply being the very thing God called them to be.  They don’t care that there are hundreds of lilies just like them, they don’t try to change their fragrance to stand out from the rest.  They are one part of many, and that is what makes the field so beautiful.

Once, I was in Europe, as we were traveling to our next destination…. something caught my attention.  As I looked out the window of the bus, I saw a sea of golden flowers.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  When I had a chance to get a closer view, I realized they were marigolds.  THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of marigolds.  You know, those yellow and orange flowers… that we consider “weeds” in some parts of the country, “cheap filler” for garden beds in other areas.  Something so simple, so ordinary and virtually unnoticed in my neck of the woods… was absolutely STUNNING.

I think that is how God sees his people, when He looks down upon His creation.  A sea of his children, moving about, creating a beautiful mosaic of every day love, care, compassion, and service.

And, that … is STUNNING.

If you are interested in reading more about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed”, you can find it the book “The Love of God” by Oswald Chambers.  There is another booklet by this name, so you’ll want to look for this cover:

theloveofGod

It contains reprints of several of his booklets, which were written in the 1930’s and are just as relevant to today.