Monday, July 25, 2011

Chapter 5 Excerpt: Aware and Adapting

Only for My King's Chapter 5 is titled "Audience." This addresses the idea of surrendering your audience--your sphere of influence--to the Lord, who is your heavenly Audience.

Day Two of every chapter features one of my friends. In this chapter, it's Raye:

Aware and Adapting
Our women's Bible Study group takes a break during the summer months. Last year my friend Raye heard some of the moms of young children talking about the need to get together during the summer. She decided that was a need that she could fill. She scheduled several playdates, complete with swimming pool, lunch, Bible stories and crafts. She sensibly delegated a few responsibilities, and invited us all to join. It certainly was an enjoyable day, but some of the activities didn't quite fit the age of the children attending. Raye realized this, and called each of the moms the next day, asking what we thought she should adjust before the next meeting. Raye was aware of the needs of her audience and adapted her plans to fit them.

As I searched for scriptures on this topic, I found Romans 14. Many of the Apostle Paul's friends kept the Jewish dietary laws, but quite a few others ate whatever they wanted to. Some Christians were very cautious about eating meat, wanting to be sure it didn't come from sources who may have offered it to pagan idols. Others just enjoyed meat without asking questions. Some honored the Jewish Sabbath, while others didn't. The church was growing, and there were converts of many different cultures. How could they all agree? Paul gave them this advice:

Accept anyone who is weak in faith, but don't argue about doubtful issues. One person believes he may eat anything, but one who is weak eats only vegetables. One who eats must not look down on one who does not eat; and one who does not eat must not criticize one who does, because God has accepted him. Who are you to criticize another's household slave? Before his own Lord he stands or falls. And stand he will! For the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person considers one day to be above another day. Someone else considers every day to be the same. Each one must be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it to the Lord. Whoever eats, eats to the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; and whoever does not eat, it is to the Lord that he does not eat, yet he thanks God. For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living. But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

...So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another. (Romans 14:1-12, 19)

Paul told his readers to be sensitive to each other, and not to waste time arguing. He reminded them that they were serving the Lord, and would answer to Him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Amy Carmichael: Designed for her Location

Only for My King's Chapter Four discusses the topic of Location--surrendering your location to the Lord, trusting Him to move you to the location of His choice, or use you right where you are.

The historical hero in this chapter is Amy Carmichael.

I remember hearing about Amy Carmichael at church when I was in elementary school. I was fascinated by the story of her praying for blue eyes when she was a child, and her learning to accept God's answer of “no.” Later, her brown eyes allowed her to disguise herself as a native in India to rescue babies and young girls from pagan temples in India. I was impressed that God created her—even the detail of her eye color—to serve Him.

This year I read A Chance to Die, a biography of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. It was interesting to see how God guided Amy one step at a time. She didn't plan to go to India. She went to Japan first, but ill health forced her to relocate to Sri Lanka and then to India. She learned some valuable lessons in Japan though; one of those was the importance of being sensitive to the culture of her location. For example, the dresses and gloves that were required apparel in Victorian England were distracting to the Japanese women, so Amy wore kimonos. Eventually she would adopt native attire in India as well.

Another lesson came from several Old Testament stories of battles in which God promised the Israelites that He would go before them (Deuteronomy 1:30, I Chronicles 14:15). Amy took that promise very personally, believing that God would not call her without accompanying and preparing her.

Amy's passion was evangelization. Yet when she learned the plight of girls in the temples in India she could not ignore them. The girls were given to the temple, sometimes by impoverished parents, to eventually become prostitutes. As Amy and her staff began to care for more and more children, Amy could no longer travel and witness as she desired. The children needed not only food and shelter but also education and spiritual instruction, and this took time and planning and prayer. It was difficult for Amy to change her focus but she believed that God would be her comfort, her shepherd, and her reward. She surrendered to His redirection.

God redirected Amy again when she fell and broke her leg. Because she never healed properly, she spent the last twenty years of her life as an invalid, overseeing the mission work from her room. Amy had always found time to write, but now she had many more hours to do so. She wrote notes to her workers, letters to friends in England, and many books.

I was startled to learn that during Amy's lifetime, she was often criticized and many people thought she should return from the mission field. She was too unpredictable, she was too unique, and she tended to seek guidance from the Lord rather than from the mission board. Amy represents the hymn phrase: “Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.” Your feet—your obedient surrender to the Lord's choice of our location—are beautiful to Him. Others may not understand your choices of where and how you live or minister, but “you serve the Lord Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:24)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Don't consider yourself to be wise;
fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory.
Whom do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You. (Psalm 73:23-25)

Amy knew her way of ministry was different from other ministries. She made a point of stating that hers was a different life but not a greater life. God asks each of us for our unique obedience. Your location and your situation may be quite different from what you dreamed of, what you pictured, or what everyone expected of you. Your Creator knew you would end up here. Ask Him how you can serve Him today.

For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Introduction: Only for My King

Coming Soon: Only for My King, a Bible study of Christian living and Christian heroes.

Here's the introduction:

Do you need a hero? I'm not talking about a flying man in a mask, but someone whose life is a pattern of service and surrender to God. The news brings us reports of failures and villains every day, but patterns of goodness don't often make the headlines.

I'd like to introduce you to my heroes. I researched historical and present-day examples of faith and I noticed my friends following God in everyday choices. Neither historical nor contemporary Christians are perfect—they are ordinary people empowered by God.

In every chapter you will meet a Biblical example, a historical hero, a contemporary Christian and someone I know personally. These heroes are artists, poets, missionaries and mothers. Each of them will point you to Jesus—the only perfect hero.

You will read scriptures that assure you of the Lord's care and support, hum along with hymns that put scriptures into poetry and pray through Psalms that express the desires of your heart.

This book is not a call to lengthen your To Do List, but an encouragement to surrender each area of your life to your King, trusting Him to reshape you and empower you for His glory. I've used the old hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” as a framework to pray through our lives, our duties and our talents as we surrender to Jesus Christ: the King we serve and the Friend we love.

...You serve the Lord Christ. (I Corinthians 3:24)

If you have Itunes, this link will take you to a playlist of the hymns used in this study. Maybe. If Itunes is being kind today.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Only for My King: Expressions

Only for My King's chapter three discusses surrendering our expressions to the Lord. How do I express ME to the world? Can I use that method of expression to express God's love? This is an excerpt from Day Two, titled "Working Together."

Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God. (I Peter 4:10)

Last winter, I read an interesting concept for a skit at a women's retreat. I shared it with women's ministry leaders and they said, “That's a great idea! Do it!” (I think my ministry leaders are very gifted in the art of delegation.) I took the idea and wrote two skits, and I had an idea for a third: I wanted to demonstrate a devotional technique called “Praying in Color.” This can be as simple as writing a prayer list with colored pencils or coloring in a color book while meditating on scripture, but I wanted to demonstrate something a little more decorative. I can't draw, so I asked my friend Claudia to help me. She was very willing to do the drawing, but she really didn't want to do the talking. I asked another friend, Amanda, for help. We met to talk and drink tea, and Amanda took our ideas home, prayed through them and wrote a script. My husband was in charge of music at retreat; I suggested that we needed a few phrases that connected the next song to the skit. Amanda practiced, and Claudia planned a picture.

At retreat it all came together: Claudia drew a beautiful picture while Amanda read Scriptures and prayed, and Mark sang. The speaker shared a message that included some of the same verses we'd used. We all worked together, using our unique ways of expression, to create something and serve God.

Whatever your hands find to do, do with [all] your strength...(Ecclesiastes 9:10)
Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ's Body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others. (Romans 12:4-5 LB)
[I want] their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding, and have the knowledge of God's mystery—Christ. (Colossians 2:2)
For it is God who is working in you, [enabling you] both to will and to act for His good purpose. (Philippians 2:13)

Read the last verse again. "It is God who is working in you." Surrender is not a burden to carry--it is a realization of the Source of our talents and strength, and a choice to honor Him.

(Note: for more on Praying in Color, click here.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Only for My King: Days

The first chapter of Only for My King discusses dedicating our lives to the Lord. Chapter Two asks "What about today? Who are you serving in the little daily choices?"

...Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...(Joshua 24:15)

When I wake up each morning, the first choice I make is whether to make coffee or tea. If I choose coffee, then I select either the French press for freshly ground coffee beans or the ibrik for Greek coffee. If I'm craving tea, I open the tea drawer to choose between British or Irish or South American while the electric kettle heats the water and I preheat the teapot. These are the first of many choices I make each day. Joshua 24:15 reminds me of a very important daily decision: who am I serving today?

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)
I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. (Psalm 3:5)

The Lord is the creator of the new day, the sustainer of my life—without Him there wouldn't be a sunrise. Surrendering my day to the Lord means serving Him today and communicating with Him constantly. If I am going to live a consecrated life, it's going to happen one day at a time. To do that, I need to keep in contact with Him, walking with Him, one step at a time. The Apostle Peter's statements in Matthew 16 show us a vivid picture of walking with Jesus one moment and being completely out of step the next.

"But you," He asked them, "who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!"
And Jesus responded, "Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven...”
From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, "Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!"
But He turned and told Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you're not thinking about God's concerns, but man's."
(Matthew 16:15-17, 21-23)

Peter was, of course, a follower of Jesus, and in the first situation here, Jesus asked His followers who they thought He was. Peter knew! Peter had been walking with Jesus and listening to Him, and thereby listening to the Father too.
But in the second conversation, Peter heard what Jesus said and immediately contradicted Him. Peter thought he knew the rest of the story so he told Jesus how it should happen, in his opinion. Jesus did not take this lightly! Peter, though walking with Jesus physically, wasn't in tune with Him spiritually at that moment.
I am grateful that these situations are placed together in the book of Matthew. They remind me that I need to stay in constant contact with the Lord, because temptation comes constantly; Peter experienced it and so will I. But I know the Light of the world, who calls me and enables me to walk in the light, to walk worthy of Him, and to follow His plan for my life.

Only for my King will be available to purchase in September.