Let’s Talk About Truth

Truth. It’s a rare commodity these days. People want it, yet they don’t want it. Politicians hide yet, but want to show a shadow of it. People crave attention and ignore the truth of themselves. Truth makes our hearts beat faster. Truth can also scare the heck out of us.

If you check any kind of media these days, (I would say read a newspaper, but those days are long gone.) You will get a hundred different versions of the truth on any one subject. The “truth is relative” philosophy hasn’t worked well for traditional journalism. The resulting chaos is making most people think the world is spinning on fire out of control into the outer atmosphere never to reenter our galaxy.

A couple of months ago one of my friends posted this on Facebook, “The world’s not getting worse, things are just being revealed.” I found that saying profound. Instead of thinking that everything is getting crazier or worse, think a minute about the fact that the truth about things are being revealed.

This will naturally create a lot of different emotional reactions in various different kinds of people.

I went through a period of life where I felt there was a lot of fake thinking and lies around me. I begged God to reveal the truth to me. I knew it could possibly be uncomfortable or I would have to see and deal with things in my life or in the lives of those around me that I didn’t want to deal with. But I knew that unless I understood the truth about what was going on around me, the quality of my life would not improve. Truth can bring about changes. People tend to move away from ideas and things that can make them have to change. Change can be for the better, but that can be uncomfortable too. Someone once said, “The truth hurts.” It can hurt but it also can reveal things that are so amazing and if you let God in on that, he can turn your thinking and your whole life around.

Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32.

Think about that for a moment……..revelation can bring about truth and the truth can make you free.

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Don’t Forget To Be Yourself

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When I was in the states, I had a great conversation with someone about how as Christians we should strive to “be ourselves.” I really appreciated the encouragement because so many times in ministry I feel the pressure that it would be “more appropriate” to fit into the stereotype that many create in our cultures, churches or even the groups of people that we hang around.

Someone “being themselves” can be a deterrent to a group whose leaders have a definite goal that they are trying to produce with a group of people. This is actually different than the biblical principles of leadership where each individual Christian should be striving to follow Christ. When someone is following Christ and are therefore part of the “body of Christ,” we don’t have to worry about not getting where the “group” is going. The Lord gives us different gifts to use to make the “body” strong. (Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. – 1 Corinthians 27) We are not competing against each other or other groups. We experience the joy of using our gifts to serve Christ and others. This should be a positive experience not one of striving and trying to make things work. The Pastor’s job as a leader is to guide and shepherd the group, to be a servant leader, not one who is “forcing” or “driving” the people to go in a certain direction.

The Little Things

DSCF0678On Facebook I asked for questions, suggestions or thoughts on a blog post……My friend Cindy asked me to write on where I see God moving in the little things……so, here’s my thoughts……..

How do I see God move in the little things?  I wonder if there even are little things anymore.  Everything is a big thing.  When one wrong move (life here is a bit intense at times) could end everything, then there are no little things.

Each day, every one of us has to deal with things in our hearts that are big for each of us but might be little things to others around us.  These desires in our hearts are big things to God.

I have a babula friend at our local market who is physically little.  Her family has passed and she has no husband or children to care for her.  She is of little importance to our society and has to beg for her survival.  She lives in a socialized housing unit for seniors and the stories she tells me raises the hair on the back of my neck.  Befriending her, buying her food and helping her buy medicine is a big thing to her.

My ministry to children and mothers at risk is a little thing in our community.  Our organization used to boast five centers and was one of the larger ministries in Ukraine.  We are now tiny and exist from month to month.  But even with the hardship, we continue to minister to over a hundred at risk mothers and families per year.  We are a big thing to God.

An orphan who is hosted to a foreign country but returned back to their home country and never adopted is just a little thing in the adoption system, but that child is a big thing to God.

I see God work in the little things everyday.  The little things are the big things to God.

Abide

I posted this on March 20, 2013 on Semkee/Seeds…..not that long ago……Thankful some of the stuff that was making my life so chaotic at the time is now resolved.  (Sorry some of it is not in paragraph form….blogger!!!)
 
 
Who doesn’t like to make plans?  I do.  I am a planner and want to have everything organized ahead of time.  Well, some people don’t plan and seem to do well in life and that works for them, but as for me, I am a planner.

I currently live in a country where the antithesis of planning is survival.  Does what I wrote even make sense?  What I mean is planning and being organized is not a survival trait in Ukraine therefore, planning something actually goes against accomplishing your goals.  If you want to survive, then sometimes you have to work against your goals.  That can make life very, very complicated.

Goals? 

Yes, they are important.

I have some.  We all should have some.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” – Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

How do you deal with setting and achieving goals in a world full of chaos?

You set your goals and you pursue them.

And when you hit the wall you remember:

“Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit:  for without me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” – John 15:4-5 (KJV)

Before I left for Ukraine, I was drawn to this passage as I sat in my parents backyard reading my Bible in +70F sunshiny weather, working on a tan while the hummingbirds fluttered above me.  Yes, I digress a little to give you some color in this post.  It WAS a bit like a Disney movie.

I like to accomplish things, so I came back to Ukraine very excited and ready to start doing everything that I thought needed to be done.  I had goals.  I had ministry to accomplish.

And then those plans took a sharp turn in the wrong direction.

I found myself sitting in my warm flat with sub zero weather outside and snow falling outside my windows.  I viewed a winter wonderland before my very eyes.  (More color for you)  I then read these verses again.

As Christians,  we need to abide in him.

Abide means:
to act in accord with.
to submit to; agree to
to remain steadfast or faithful to; keep: If you make a promise, abide by it

 

 

 

If we want our lives to bear fruit, and live in ways that show others that we truly know him and are serving him, then we need to abide and stay close to him.  Because people watch each other all the time, and they can tell who is sincerely bearing fruit and who is faking it. Faking it doesn’t count.  Faking it means doing nothing.  Faking it means your life is just a show. And the serious part about faking it is that God knows when we do it and he will prune that falseness right out of our lives.  He wants our lives to bear fruit that will bless others around us, not bring people constant problems.

 

 

 

Who wants to be a fake?  Who wants to live out a show all the time?  That’s tiring and exhausting and does not really accomplish anything.  It bears fruit to a situation full of striving, strife and confusion.  Who wants that?

 

Better to abide.

 

Better to submit.

Better to be steadfast to the one who will always sustain you and never leave your nor forsake you.

 

Better to accomplish the goals he has for you.

We All Have Something To Give

I posted this on Semkee/Seeds on October 23, 2012.  I am still helping out the babula’s at the market!  They are some of my favorite people here!

I have an informal little “babulya” ministry at my local market.  “Babulya” means “grandma” and  unfortunately there are quite a few of these ladies haunting the markets and asking for money to live on.

These ladies have always touched my heart because they are one of the most vulnerable groups of people that the Bible talks about and that God asks us to help.  Most are widows and do not have families to help them.  In a society that overlooks the vulnerable, they do not have enough money to live on.  Therefore, they must beg.

I noticed that one woman was particularly spry and I had seen her in various places on the streets of Kyiv as well as the market.  She seemed very kind and was always talking to people and getting to know them.  One day, I started to talk to her.  I’m not going to share her personal details because this post is on the internet and she’s living in a vulnerable situation.  I do want to share her perspective on her situation.  It’s so easy to walk past people on the street and stereotype them or to look away because there’s really nothing we can do to change their situation.  I cannot possibly address all the needs around me that I see everyday.  I am only one person.  But in taking the time to talk to her, I could tell that she was lonely so I made it a point to not just give her some money but to have a little conversation with her as well.

Sometimes people give these babulyas things to sell for money so they don’t have to beg outright.  You might find them selling matches or some odd little gadget at the side of the market.

One day this babulya gave me a bag full of paper plates and plastic forks.  Someone had given the utensils to her and she wanted me to take it to our Day Center for the children to use.  I had told her about the children I work with and she always asked about them.  She said she thought we could use them and believe me, we used them.  It was a thoughtful gift.

I saw her quite a bit last week and as I talked to her,  I could see her brain clicking and that she was trying to figure out what she could give to me.

The next time I saw her she told me, “I want you to know that I am so worried about those poor children and I don’t have anything to give you, so I went to the church and prayed for them.”

We always have something precious to give to someone less fortunate.

Luke 21:1-4

Encouraging Yourself

I wrote this and posted it on my Semkee/Seeds blog on October 8, 2012. 

Living a life that focuses on working with people and dealing with spiritual issues will give you a real lesson on humanity if not an occasional headache.

As Christians, we are to put our trust in God and not in people, but all too often, we end up putting more trust in people around us than in God and we end up getting our trust broken.

This can breed a kind of cynicism as we deal with people.  Experience tends to teach us that this type of person may be like this or that and we decide about a situation or person before we barely know them.  Stereotypes rise in our minds, may even play out in our relations with others and then true relational trust becomes a hard bridge to cross.

It’s true that sometimes we have to make decisions about people and we have to use experience and wisdom to make a decision for yourself or for others safety.  That’s not what I’m writing about today.  I’m writing about the junk that clogs up our minds and that we need to let go of if we are truly going to walk in love and share faith and hope with others.

While we need others for friendship and support, there will come a time when you find yourself alone and you need to pull yourself out of cynicism and the stereotyping of other people if you want to develop lasting friendships and relationships with people.

I find encouraging myself is a good thing to do when I feel hurt by others or feel surrounded by people whose motives seem manipulative and not genuine.

1 Samuel gives us an example of this when David and his men returned home to find their wives and children captured by their enemy.  His men turned on him in their grief and wanted to kill him.

“And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.”…….1 Samuel 30:5-7 (KJV)

You could encourage yourself by any number of ways.  I like to take some time alone relaxing and not thinking about problems.  Sometimes I listen to music, read a book or watch a movie.  Then I find things to do that inspire me spiritually.  Maybe it’s taking some photos, praying or reading the Bible.

What helps me the most is remembering all the ways I’ve seen God work in the life of others around me.  I know He does a lot in my life, but I find that looking at other people’s lives and seeing how they’ve grown, how God has met their needs or is working in their life inspires me to no end.  I think this is because it gets me back to looking at people in a positive light and I start feeling thankful for the people who are in my life.  I realize that even through the difficult relationships that are challenging me, I also have people in my life who encourage me without even saying a word to me.

While ministering to others can be draining and even painful at times because you get a close look at the dark side of humanity, you also are given a front row seat to watch the spectacular ways that God works in our lives.  This is truly an encouragement and blessing.

Be Utterly Amazed

I posted this on on my Semkee/Seeds blog on September 28, 2012……One of my very favorites…..God’s faithfulness amazes me.

“Look at the nations and watch and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”…….Habakkuk 1:5 (NIV)

Are you amazed at what is going on in the world every day?

I am.

Everyday since I’ve returned to Ukraine, I’ve been waking up and and saying to myself, “Thank you Lord for allowing me to walk in great faith.”

Every day my knees knock when I think about the problems I need to solve or am overwhelmed with the things I am going through.  Doors of opportunity fly closed and others fly open.  Roads that looked good to walk down suddenly don’t look as appealing.  I know I chose the “road less traveled” in this life, but does it have to be so chaotic and crazy?  Disaster could strike at any time.  Can I get through this?

I end up much like Habakkuk does, complaining to the Lord about all the unfairness I see daily around me, “The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted!” (vs 4) or my paraphrase, “THESE PEOPLE ARE EVIL.  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

Everyone is wondering at the lack of justice in the world today.  Just read your Facebook newsreel.  Everyone you know is madly pasting reams of political copy on their pages in complete panic.

What is he going to do about it?  What is going to happen?

In Habakkuk 2:4 the Lord tells us what to do: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Not live by faith in our bank accounts.  Not walk by faith in our traditions.  Not stump our faith in our political systems but live our lives with faith in God.

When we choose to walk in great faith in the Lord we will rejoice:

Even though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines.

Even though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food.

Even though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls.

When you can walk in great faith then something amazing happens.  You realize you don’t have to do everything by your own strength.  You don’t have to figure it out.  You don’t have to have all the answers.  When you can look beyond your own strength and stop controlling everything, you will see something amazing.

You will start seeing God working in the world around you no matter how much it is spinning out of control.

You will be amazed.