Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We Are a Letter from Christ to the World


Photo by luigi diamanti taken from freedigitalphotos.net
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

As a Christian writer, I find it is easy to sit comfortably behind my desk in my safe surrounds and allow God’s words of love, forgiveness, grace and mercy to pour onto the page, knowing I’m reaching people for Him. As it says in Isaiah, “so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

But doesn’t the Bible also clearly state in James, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,  ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”

What does that mean to me? What does that mean for us? It means that while the Lord has called us to a certain task using the gifts He’s given us, He’s also called us to go and love others in action.

There will be times when we step out in faith and give to those poorly clothed, those lacking in daily food, and lift those hurting in prayer because we understand what the Lord has done for us. We’ll provide the same unconditional love the Lord has shown in our lives when we were destitute and needy. But what happens when the poor aren’t responsive to your help?

I’ve recently faced situations like this. How do we share the unconditional love of Christ with a man
Photo by Serge Bertasius taken from freedigitalphotos.net
who’d rather live in the woods and give his every last cent to his addiction? Or a woman who would rather shiver on the streets in prostitution and endure abuse?

More than once my emotions have spilled over when people wouldn’t accept my help. One particular day, I asked the Lord, “Why can’t they accept my help? Why do they turn away from Your mercy? Are they not listening? Should I give up? Isn’t this what you called me to do?”

Then an example from Jesus’ own life came to mind. Scripture records He left Nazareth because “He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.”

I rose and wiped my tears when another image ran through my thoughts. A picture of a man. He was beaten and bruised, skin torn, almost unrecognizable. He wore a crown of thorns, carrying His cross down the Via Dolorosa willingly to suffer and die for my transgressions. Not only mine—everyone I meet.

Jesus was 33 years old when He cried out, “It is finished.” Was there still more work to do in telling people about the Father? More mouths to feed? More people to help?

Of course!

However, Jesus had done everything His Father asked, and not everyone believed or turned from their life styles. So how much more should I obey the Father in helping the needy, the poor, or the lost? I should never give up, but press on in perseverance to what God has called me to do, whether I’m writing a novel or face to face with someone who needs help—no  matter the circumstances or the rejection I might face.

There will always be challenges when we share our faith whether in word or in deed, but we need to be as obedient as Christ when He took up His cross. Because who will see the cross we bear for Christ if we stay in our living rooms and keep to ourselves?

Paul said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

What task has God given you? What cross are you carrying for Christ? Because no matter what you do or where you go, you are a living testimony of God’s unconditional love, written on your heart for all to see. How you share that love is up to you.


__________


~ Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. Her books are available on Amazon and other retailers. You can find her at http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Are You Living on Purpose?

Looking at your to-do list, have you ever felt an almost
Photo from stockphoto taken from freedigitalphoto.net
uncontrollable urge to chuck it all? Do you feel like your family's activity calendar has taken over your home? When was the last time you went out to coffee with a friend? Spent the entire day in your PJs? Does the very thought cause longing to fill your heart?


I'm a doer by nature. An overly enthusiastic doer, which means, it's easy for me to jam my schedule full of all kinds of wonderful things. Quickly making me a slave to my agenda and crowding out the main things.

Because even good things can keep us from God's best--for us, our ministries, our families... 

So what do we do when we begin to feel as if life has taken control? We determine to take it back. 


Photo by graur razvan ionut taken from freedigitalphotos.net
1. Begin with prayer. 

Pray for clarity and the courage to follow through. Isaiah 30:21 says,"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in it.'"

That voice is God's ever-present, ever-guiding Spirit. Ephesians 2:10 tells us God has a plan for our lives. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us it's a good, hope-filled plan, and 1 Corinthians 2:9 says,"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him." 

In other words, God's plans for you are so much better than anything you could have dreamed up. The only logical course of action, then, is to "Carefully determine what pleases the Lord" (Eph. 5:10), not acting thoughtlessly, but rather, understanding what the Lord wants you to do (Eph. 5:17) and doing it. 

I suspect as many of us prayerfully evaluate our schedules, certain things will jump out at us. Perhaps we've over-extended ourselves and need to cut back on a few activities. Perhaps one activity in particular comes to mind--the one we agreed to out of guilt rather than prayerful intentionality. Or perhaps it's our children's schedule that comes to mind as we realize we've allowed their activities to rob them of much-needed family time. 

When this happens, we must pray for courage to honor Christ above all else, meaning, to put obedience to Christ above our desire to please man.

I love how Paul says it in Galatians 1:10: "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" (NLT). 

We can't do both. We can't live our life for Christ and others. Something's going to give and if we're not intentional, that something's going to be our family and faith walk. 

2. Schedule the main things into our day 

 Why is it, when time gets short, it's often my top priorities that seem to slide? Time spent in prayer, cultivating my most important relationship, developing a listening ear and a surrendered heart. Time spent with my husband, cultivating my most important human
photo by David Castillo Dominici
taken from freedigitalphotos.net
relationship. Time spent with our daughter, being intentional in my most important responsibility. 


I suspect this is because I take those relationships for granted, and I allow those things that scream loudest--dirty, smelly socks; the steady bling of my smart phone every time an email comes in; those continual tasks that demand my attention--to distract me from my greatest call: to love God with everything within me and to love others as myself. 

According to Jesus, those two things are the most important commandments. The most urgent instructions He's given us. Therefore, if God Himself says those two things are the main things, shouldn't I give them top priority? To do that, I need to be intentional, adding time with God, family, and friends, into my agenda. Because if I don't schedule them in, chances are, another activity will schedule them out. 

3. Be persistent in prayer 

Some answers take time. When prayerfully evaluating our schedule, some things may be obvious, like cutting that hour and a half we spend every Saturday morning on Facebook. Other things, however, will take time, thought, prayer, and seeking wise counsel to figure out. 

But God is faithful, and He will guide us toward the very best course of action. Sometimes He might want us to persevere through the chaos, reminding us that we're in a season. Other times, He might have a solution on the horizon, one He'll show us, when the time is right. But the only way we'll know for certain whether to push through or pull back is to prayerfully seek His will in everything we do, patiently awaiting His answer.

What about you? How's your schedule this winter? When was the last time you paused to prayerfully evaluate your commitments and how you spend your time? Are you intentional with your day? With your main relationships? What can you do today to take control of your day? 

If you found today's post helpful and would enjoy more devotionals along with healthy and family favorite recipes, bits of a serial story, and helpful life tips sent straight to your email inbox, then sign up for our quarterly newsletter.


Receive our fiction, recipes, and updates each quarter by email

* indicates required

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Eileen Rife: What is it About Chocolate?

What is it about chocolate that keeps us coming back for more?
            For me, it’s the creamy texture, the silky richness, especially of dark chocolate, that coats my mouth and lifts my spirits.
            I’ve never understood those who claim they don’t like chocolate. Such was the case for my childhood friend. At every birthday party, she refused my favorite—chocolate ice cream. Her disdain for such a classic confection was as foreign to me as the planet Pluto.
            Certainly, my love affair with chocolate has firm roots in my childhood. Yes, chocolate ice cream at every birthday party, but even more so, candy at every Christmas. Chocolate was the ambrosia that sweetened the holidays and one of my most treasured memories. Like clockwork, Daddy would tote home a 5-pound white box of Brach’s chocolates. Since the mixed array didn’t come with a label identifying the selections, our family would spend the rest of the season seeing who could be the sneakiest candy detective. It wasn’t long, however, until we guessed whose marks were being left behind. The thumbprint slightly pushed into the bottom revealing the gooey innards was Daddy’s. The pin prick was mine. Of course, everyone knew the caramel by the square shape. They were always the first to go. By the way, my chocolate-loving heritage lives on as I married a man with a keen taste for dark chocolate and Turtles.
            I suppose one can spiritualize anything she wants, but I can’t help but believe chocolate is one of those sweet, rich gifts that can point us to God, the One who delights in giving His children sweet surprises.
            So it was for me in 2005 and the years immediately following. After 20 years of home schooling, my last daughter graduated and set off for a two month mission trip to Thailand to verify her calling. In the midst of releasing our oldest to fulltime mission work in India, a full writing/speaking schedule, aging parents, a new business venture, and the onset of menopause, my two older daughters married, within three months of each other. Only a short time later, my mother died, leaving a sick and grieving husband, my precious father, in her wake.
            I entered 2006 grieving the empty nest, my mom, and the weight of the business. In short, I was totally spent. Wrung out. I thought my greatest contribution was over with the home schooling, and while the Lord had given me a good plan for the future, I was too tired to embrace it.
            But God, in His rich mercy and grace, did not leave me to dwell in my grief too long. By the end of 2006, He presented this “Naomi” with two grandbaby girls, my sweet chocolate that I’ve savored, along with five other grandchildren since then. In those precious gifts, God has shown me that we don’t always know—indeed we seldom know—what flavors life’s box of chocolates will hold. But we can trust our Maker to give us His good and sweet gifts to enrich our lives and bring us joy.


Eileen Rife, author of Laughing with Lily, speaks to women’s groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.