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.
I am learning grace. I am learning more every day about grace. I’m learning about how we need to walk by the Spirit and not by the law. We as men very easily tend to slide oh so easily over to the law, the flesh, and religion. Living by the spirit is much more self-sacrificial, much more intimate, much more eyes on yourself rather than others, much less comparing yourselves among yourselves.
Years ago when I was a baby Christian, I know I was hearing from the Lord, but I may not have behaved myself around others as best as I could. I was just learning to walk in His ways and the old nature and mindsets or ways of thinking (self-centeredness) were still quite apparent. One example of this was when the Lord was dealing with me about my Disney movies. You see, Mickey darned the walls of my room in high school; I received presents of large stuffed Mickey’s for my birthday, and even went to work at Disney right out of high school. I listened to The Little Mermaid soundtrack while driving back and forth to Orlando on home visits. I loved Disney. After I got saved and had children I began to see the many witches and evil sorcerers in the movies and the Lord began to show me this and prune this affection for these movies from me. It was an idol.
I have quite a mouth and love to share and talk with others and like Joseph opening his mouth, sometimes it gets you into some trouble. See, our holiness (the things God wishes to get out of our lives or into our lives) is a personal, intimate thing between you and Him because He is the one that knows where your heart is and what work needs to be done in it. I heard today that holiness is like the Old testament’s circumcision. It was a covenant between you and your God, personal, private and between you and Him. It would be strange today to go flaunting your “holiness” for all to see. See my circumcision…see my holiness.
You see I shared my intimate personal circumcision with an even younger Christian and she wanted to be like me, so she got rid of her Disney movies also. Was God dealing with her on this? Probably not. This is where one person’s relationship then turns into law. This is not what we are separated unto.
Are Disney movies of the devil and should they be never watched again? By all means, no. We watch Disney movies, my kids love them and the music. Do many people stay in the law and just forbid, forbid, forbid which in turn make it ever more desirable (the strength of sin is the law)?
If we want to share, make sure others know that this is what the Lord is working on YOUR heart about. He knows where the idols lie. Don’t put that on others. Every one is on their own path and can hear from the Holy Spirit themselves. Don’t become their God, help lead them to God. Law makes the focus man, Spirit makes the focus Him.
For a time God circumcised my heart toward the movies because it was too valuable for me. I like the movies now, I watch the movies now, but they have a place now for me. If we are to train our children, it is not just in do this, don’t do that, but to raise them up to respect the Lord, be thankful for His goodness and the grace and relationship repair Jesus did for us so that we can walk by His spirit and not have to return to the law. To have a personal, intimate, relationship with the One that made all things. This is what true witness is to others, not our rules. Men can come up with so many laws that truly are comical. Let us not flaunt our holiness (keep your pants up and keep it to yourself, it is a private thing and let’s not compare our private matters and put them as a burden on others), but rather let us, by our love, show others the way, the way to relationship.
The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.
5-8 Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.
9-11 But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!
12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!
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).
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