Being away from American culture for three years now has given me the opportunity to reflect on many things. The constant judging/condemning/comparing yourselves among yourselves is so engrained in the American culture and takes place constantly on news shows, politics, high schools and now even in our churches. The gospel is such good news and freedom from this pride that is is robbing our entire culture of experiencing His peace, grace, and love. "By this all men will know". Leave God's job to Him to sort it all out. Our job is to love. There are only 2 commandments for us now. Are we being faithful in those 2 things and do we really know and understand His love? I pray for America and all of us that are different from the world to know and experience this love. For some reason our definition of love has been distorted through films and culture. "Fall in" "Fall out"...what is love, a hole? We need a reset in our core of what love is...If God is love and the world needs to see God through us...don't they need to see our love? or do we ourselves as Christians only know law, rules, and religion? I pray, we as Christians, draw in and lay aside the weight that so easily besets us, and know and experience His love.
From the other day's post on priorities, I am today leading into specific priorities like time, giving, love, etc.
You know, of course, that I am a missionary, so therefore I base what I believe on the Bible. I try not to have preconceived ideas to cloud my viewpoints, only what I think the Word is saying to me. I love actually reading the Word and see how we as Christians, through religion or whatever, have messed up over time. I think I enjoy doing this mostly because I was raised in a somewhat religious home and church and went through confirmation at 12, but never had a relationship with Christ until I was 22. When I read the Bible for the first time, I was amazed at what it said and kept repeating, "How come I didn't know this?" or "Are other people reading the same thing I am?" Maybe some people go to church or do religious acts all their lives and never study scripture. Maybe that's why the church is in the mess we are in. Anyway, just my opinion and some background on that....
So that brings me to my topic for today. Giving and the priorities the Bible puts on it and where it should go. When I studied this topic, I wanted to be sure that my resources were going where God says to put them and where God says the leaders should put them...according to priority.
1) Give to the Poor- There are many scriptures about giving that begin as early as Cain and Abel bringing their sacrifice to God, then to Abraham bringing his tithe to Melchizedek. When God told Abraham that he would be blessed to BE a blessing. As a worldwide church, I believe we have done well giving to the poor, but we could do much better. I believe God gave the responsibility to the church to take care of the poor, but when the church's responsibilities get out of order, there are issues and problems. When there are issues and problems, the government or other institutions have to step in where the church is failing in their priorities. When America was a new nation, the church was involved if not in charge of schools (small community ones up to universities), but they have since let the government take charge, the church was the leader in many hospitals and taking care of the sick, and we have also let go and let the government take care of the poor. God gave those to us to care for, and we have handed it off. The church is so concerned with buildings, when God cares for people. Just some references to refer to if you would like to do some study...(Rom. 15:25-27, Rom. 12:13, Acts 11:27-30, Acts 20:35, Acts 6:1, Gal. 2:9-10, I Cor. 16:1, II Cor. 8 and 9, I Tim. 6:18, Lev. 25:35, Deut. 15:7-11, Ps 41:1-3, Prov. 14:21, Prov. 19:17, Prov. 22:9, Prov. 28:27, Heb 6:10, I John 3:17, Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:34-37) Giving is an overflow to the generosity and gratefulness that we have inside. If we are missing this generosity and gratefulness, giving will be a law rather than a love.
2) Gifts to ministers- From the OT to the new, we see that the ministers had to live off others generosity in order to minister full time. They didn't own land or have inheritances to give their descendants, they lived in constant reliance on God and the people of God. They weren't intended to be uber wealthy, but to live sacrificially, but comfortably. (I Cor. 9:7-14, Gal. 6:6, I Tim. 5:17-18, Deut. 14:27:29, II Chron. 31:4-20, Phil. 4:10-19, Acts 15:3, Acts 21:5, Rom. 15:24, II Cor. 1:16) There is something about a preacher/missionary living in a mansion with the poor living all around that doesn't seem quite right, as there is also something not quite right with a preacher/missionary living in poverty that is also a wrong witness (that they are not being cared for by God or His people). I thank God everyday that we have people that support the work we do. That we live comfortably and our needs are met each month.
3) Give to missions- The missionaries could fall into the ministers category, but they could be separated. Paul himself was a minister and missionary. The minister himself needs to be provided for, and also the work he/she is doing. They are different categories. He sometimes took offering for himself, and from others he didn't want their offerings. He was a tent maker and could support himself. (Rom. 10:15, 3 John 6) Many circumstances missionaries are not allowed to work to make money in the countries they are in, so funds must come from those who are doing the sending.
4) the Temple/Facilities- God set aside offerings to build His house in the OT (Ex 25:1-8) and a tax to help maintain the temple (Ex. 30:11-16). In most of the NT, the believers were more concerned with people and the poor than buildings it seems to me. Not that it is wrong to have a nice church building by any means, but remember, when our priorities are out of order, as we saw in yesterday's blog, things can get out of order and cause major problems. Especially when mindsets are continued over long periods of time. I see the church (being American I see mostly this philosophy there, but American church philosophies carry over to the rest of the world, believe it or not). We are in Roma/Bulgarian churches now and most of what we hear are needs for buildings, not people. It's sad to me... we are not an OT church, we are a NT church.
I love it when churches are about people, when they love people and meet needs (physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, financially, and, of course, spiritually).
Priorities are very important in life. I know I have learned a set of priorities that help keep my life in good working order and when those priorities get out of order, I find trouble...or trouble finds me. I was taught, and live by these order of priorities in order of importance. It has always kept me grounded and kept my life working quite well.
1) God- keeping Him as first priority keeps my life full of love, purpose, and guidelines that keep me grounded and driven.
2) Self and Family- Love yourself so you can love others. My family are my love in action. They are where I love to give and sow purpose into and help pass on to the next generation what I've have learned and to encourage to love God, and also have purpose.
3) Ministry/Work- I also love to put my hands to work. Work for the Lord, work for people, work to make a difference. We all work at something that we want to make a difference in this world and something that gives us purpose. This kind of work is so fulfilling. Even if you have a job that you have to go to to earn a living that doesn't fulfill the sense of purpose you need, get involved in church, group, or place to give of yourself. Put you faith in action. Fellowship with others to encourage one another to be better and to give more of yourselves.
When these priorities get out of order...then chaos or trouble arrises. If we make ourselves #1 then we make ourselves as gods and become consumed with ourselves only. No one wants to be around that type of person very long.
If we make our husband or children #1, then we can elevate our children as gods in our life. (I've actually seen this before having been a teacher for 11 years.) We think we are doing good and giving love, when in reality we are creating little monsters that believe that the sun and moon should rise and set with them and have no sense of reality (the real world).
Being in ministry, we have also been tempted at some points to put ministry up before its place. We all know the old stereotype of preacher's kids. Sometimes preachers can put ministry as #1 or even #2 before family. This in turn causes kids to act out in order to get the attention in priority they can feel they are due.
I'm sure you can come up with more examples of how a life out of order can be lived in many families and know the problems it can cause. I thank the Lord everyday for bringing this knowledge to my attention years ago and keeping me in order. We have not always been perfect, but we know when they get out of line, and we have some things to change.
Tomorrow part 2 of priorities...we talked about life priorities (that cover the big picture of life), but tomorrow I will share my thoughts on individualized priorities.
Our theme at church for many years has been about the river spoken of in Ezek. 47, and Pastor Keith has been talking in depth about the river for the last two Sundays. Last Sunday, God really spoke to my heart about where I was in my walk into the river. You might think...,"They are selling or giving all they own, leaving all of their family and friends, an amazing church family, good jobs, and a school family we have been a big part of for 12 years to follow the calling on their lives. How much more in the river can you get?"Well.... God is always calling us deeper isn't He?
He brought me back to last year when Jessie, Mitch, and I went white water rafting on the Nantahala River. He showed me how I thought I knew what I was doing so decided not to go with a guide or a group, but instead took a small boat with Jessie. Of course, Mitch knew how to do it and went in a boat on his own. Which goes back to his independent spirit from the beginning as he told us before he began first grade, "I really don't need to go to first grade, Mom. I already know how to read."
So Jessie and I had to work together without getting frustrated at one another, nor blaming one another for our constant mistakes. We noticed after not too long how incredibly COLD the water was and how hard we had to work at paddling together. We also noticed soon after that, that the closer we stayed to the edges of the river, the more we went round and round in circles and ended up not getting any progress done. The more we stayed in the middle of the river, the deeper the water and the more progress we could make. (See the spiritual stuff already?)
Anyway... we were making quite the progress and stride and feeling quite the experts WHEN we saw a large log stretched out across the river. Tried as we might, we could not get to either side to avoid the log. We hit it at the far right edge, the boat's backside turned and we were now stuck up against and alongside the log. Because of the force of the river, the boat then began to tilt and fill with water. Before I knew it we were dumped out! As I tried to get to my feet (this seemed to be at a place in the river that was about thigh deep) and go against all training I had just had about "if you find yourself capsized, DO NOT TRY TO STAND UP, but let the river take you and find a way to get to the side." But they did not understand, as I looked to the side, my Jessie was out of the boat and the river's strength had pushed her under the log and all I saw was her head sticking up and the look of panic on her face. I had to be strong and save my child.
I used all the strength (probably that mama adrenaline that they talk about) and jerked that girl up from under the log. Yay, right? Well, yes and then we were left with the dilemma of our boat stuck now under this log and standing in rapids. This is when I cried, "Jesus!"
Out of nowhere, comes this long blonde haired guy on a surf board. We push the boat out from under the log, he jumps in to the boat and paddles up to us and we jump in. He was my surfer angel "dude". We were safe!
Now, back to the river analogy that God whispered to my heart Sunday after church. "Dee Dee, where are you in the river?" I replied, "In the middle of the rapids, Lord, but I'm on my feet."
He said so gently, "It's time to let go." Wow how the tears flowed!
My prayer since that moment every morning is "Lord, I'm off my feet today. Let the river take me. I will enjoy the river ride. Life is an adventure with you."
Every day since Sunday this week has been one amazing story after another. I just wish I had the time t share them all. I will/must share one!
Yesterday, we had our physicals and then were heading up to Atlanta to take care of opening an account that will be beneficial since we will be doing things internationally. On the way to Atlanta I heard in my heart Marietta Diner. I dismissed it and thought strange and moved on. Again, Marietta Diner...I thought, "I've never been there but I've heard it's good...strange."
We got to Peachtree St. to do our business and there are lots of great restaurants around. We were looking for a place to have lunch, but nothing looked good. Again, I hear, "Marietta Diner."
So we got back in the car, punched Marietta Diner into the GPS and headed the 20 minutes out of the way to Marietta Diner.
When we get there, the host takes us to a booth, but at the last minutes swerves and places us at a different booth. No big deal....
Our waitress takes our order and we notice that she has an accent. I tell Chance, "Ask where she's from."
So as she comes back, we ask her and she says, "Bulgaria." We proceeded to have the most amazing conversation about Bulgaria, the language, the culture, the do's and don'ts, the places to go, websites to help, etc. etc etc. We exchange emails and she invites us to the coast on the Black Sea where her family lives and would like for us to stay in her apartment in Burgas when we visit.
We have met now a friend for life in one afternoon all because God whispered, "Get off your feet."
He may ask something of us and it may seem like a huge sacrifice, but the adventure He wants to take us on is sooooo much better!
God Bless and have an OFF YOUR FEET DAY!
I have been reading from the beginning of the Bible since I arrived in Bulgaria 8 months ago and I am in Isaiah now. After reading through the Old Testament and how they would turn to idols and other gods so easily, I began to pray about the word "idol" and make it relevant to me. I wanted to understand in my easy 3rd grade teacher mind, how this word would apply to my life. I prayed and asked God to reveal this to me.
The other day as we were driving through the Thracian valley in the middle of Bulgaria in the most furtile parts of the country, I was talking and the answer just came out of my mouth. I was talking about how we as humans put value on things. Earthly things only are valuable in regards to how much value we place on it. If we pay alot for something, we deem it valuable. If it is a family heirloom, we may value it. This is why we love to watch shows like "Antique Roadshow", because we see value in things we may not have valued before.
We, as humans, have this power of value that we can place onto things and also onto other people (or lack of value, however).
It causes me to think about the things and people that I value in my life. As far as people go, of course, my faith, my family (my husband and our four AMAZING kids) and friends are the most valuable to me. People I would die for...
As far as things/possessions, well, I've already let go of most things I valued already (like the Keiurig coffee maker and the Dyson vacuum cleaner). You might say my laptop or some other thing of monetary value might rank at the top, but I really would say my Bible. I know, how cliche, a missionary loves her Bible....but I really do. It is the most valuable thing to me...I really like it. I lost it (or left it at the mission house we were staying at in the hustle and bustle of moving) and had to begin in a new Bible. I like it ok, but the team brought mine back to me last week. I liked the Dukes and the hot sauce, even the M & Ms, and the beef jerky they brought to us, but my Bible was back home with me.
Anyway, back to idols and the value we put on things.
This was just my assessment of the things I value. We should all ask ourselves, what we value most...
I believe an idol becomes anything that we OVERvalue. The idols of the Old Testament were old skulls put on a mantle and worshipped. Graven images that became as gods. They took ordinary things and overvalued them. Made them worth more than they really were.
What have you overvalued? If everyone else says, that's not really worth much, but in your eyes it's worth more than money could buy, has it become an idol to you?
Can you not sell your house because you have overvalued it? Can you not let go of something because it is worth too much to you? Has it then become an idol? This, for me, is now my "idol test". Have I OVERvalued an object, a person, or even a tradition?
This is Roddy in the middle
Over the past few weeks we have been busy with an amazing teen conference, several women’s conferences, church services, and visiting a summer camp for orphans. We try to share insights that we get during the month in our blog, and with everything that has happened, we have come away with many insights.
A group from Kyustendil (our home town and the church we work very closely with) was able to attend the large teen conference called Love Bulgaria that we were privileged to help with this year. The group was led by Roddy, who was responsible for five other people from his church. Roddy participated in the sports group for street evangelism. This is when we go to a village and play soccer (football) involving the community with the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Roddy was always quick to volunteer and anything he could do to help, he came with a heart of humility and love. As we did the evangelism, Roddy was always obeying the leaders in charge of the groups and as a member of his team he also participated in playing. Roddy made a point to pass to open teammates and play any position on the field that would help his team win. Roddy showed no prejudice to any race and always made a point to praise any good play on the field. Roddy was the first to volunteer to give his testimony, and he shared his testimony on the last day of evangelism in the city of Razlog. While Roddy was involved with sports, he looked after his group from Kyustendil like a father looks after his children. He made sure they attended all events , he protected them, and made sure every need within his group was taken care of with a heart of humility and love. As I watched Roddy, I was very impressed with his behavior and the attitude he displayed all week. The week ended a great success!
Jessie with some of the boys in the camp.
One of the last things we did this month was to visit a camp held each year near our town for orphans. We got to see the Bible dramas being told to the young children and listen to them sing praise songs to God. The staff was made up of teens and young adults from all over the world, coming together in love to share the Gospel of Jesus. All the children in this camp were very poor Roma children. They were getting to experience the Love of God for the first time. The staff is from different countries, races and denominations to share their love with children who have never experienced love of any kind. You may be asking what does this camp have to do with Roddy? Well, Roddy is an orphan. Roddy is Roma. And Roddy’s testimony is that as a child he attended this camp when he was a young boy and experienced the Love of Christ for the first time.
The Love of God is the greatest evangelistic tool. “By this all men will KNOW that you are my disciples, if you have LOVE one for another.”
During my devotion this morning, I heard something that was quite profound. Go with me here as I lead with a personal example and bring it all back together. Many times in my life the Holy Spirit has given me wisdom and helped me in the raising of my children (praise the Lord). I would not always know the exact place in the Bible where to back up this wisdom, but many times through my studying the Word, would come across things in the Word that confirmed what the Holy Spirit had taught me in my cry as a mother for wisdom in raising my kids. They are 16, 15, 14, and 8 right now. In elementary school and especially middle school, children need to be firm in who they are, but at this age it is tested and retested. Peer pressure and name calling is rampant throughout these ages. My children would come home at a young age and say, "..... called me this" or "....said I was....". I would always tell them, "Are you this? Is this who YOU say you are? Is this true to be what you know about yourself? Is this true about what God says about you?" The answer would always be, "No." Then I would say, "Then what does it matter? Why should it move you? The only truth that matters is what God thinks of us and what we think of ourselves. People will always try to get you to change those two things, but if you are firm in who you are, you will never be moved."
So this morning I heard a word confirmation on this advice. We know the story in the Bible of the spies that are sent out to check out the land and they come back with the report that there are giants in the land. The next statement is what stood out the most to me..."and we are as grasshoppers in their eyes." They did not ask the giants what they thought of them. This was their image of THEMSELVES. This image of themselves was not the image God had of them. This wrong image of themselves kept them from entering the promised land. The image they had of themselves. As I tie this all together, we as parents try to ground our children and have them rooted strongly in confidence and in knowing who they are and not to be moved by outward circumstances.
It makes me question us even as adults, "Who do you say you are? What is it you believe about yourself? Is this true about what God says about you?" In this world there will always be prejudices, racism, and even in small clusters like a middle school you will have those usurping and ranking themselves. It even goes back to the message we have here in Bulgaria as we are teaching the Roma. The question still goes back to "what image do you have of yourself"? How do you see yourself? Will you believe what others say you are? Will you be put in the category others put you in? Will you rise and be who you are and who God says you are? His Beloved, bought with a price, valuable, and created for His purpose in such a time as this!
God has been talking to my heart over the last 6 weeks about this word...opportunities. We as parents want/wish to give our children every opportunity we can to help them to be a better person. We introduce them to different sports, different people, different activities, and different foods. We do this to make sure they are given every opportunity to better themselves or to be anything they want to be.
Growing up I was given great opportunities that my parents worked very hard to give us. We then become adults and choose to walk away with the opportunities we want. I can't begin to name all of the opportunities my parents gave me, but I would like to list 3 main ones. First, was education. My parents knew that education was very important. They would find the best public school in a city and then find the closest house for sale. Education mattered. Second, speech. My mother would constantly look me in the face to correct my speech. Third, people. I was not raised to belittle another race nor look down on anyone, no matter their status.
I remember this lesson of "opportunities" was ingrained into me through a situation I found myself in when we lived in Bibb City (a poorer section of our town) in my twenties. Chance and I were living in a staff house at a local homeless shelter. I was given the opportunity to help a young girl in her twenties just like me, with small children, just like me. The only difference between the two of us were the opportunities given to each of us growing up. Her speech was different and her education was different. I saw us as no different other than the fact that I had been given different opportunities. This reminded me of the movie "My Fair Lady" in which the professor takes a lady away from the poor part of town, educates her and perfects her speech and tries to pass her off as royalty. These are opportunities.
In America, "the land of opportunity" the opportunities are vast. Being here in Bulgaria, I saw this desire to be more like America in dress, slogans, and pop culture, but I believe the desire to be like America, comes more in the opportunities available. In America you are told you can be anything you want when you grow up. You can take advantage (if you work hard enough) of every opportunity America gives you. Many choose to take advantage, but many don't.
We, here on the mission field, want to give opportunities to those wanting to choose them. An opportunity to move from the kingdom of darkness and into God's glorious loving kingdom, an opportunity to learn God's word and become a disciple and live in freedom and victory, an opportunity to learn English so that more opportunities are given to them, and an opportunity to change the world.
Dee Dee Galloway