Thursday, July 14, 2011

Grape Vine

So what does it mean to walk in the Spirit?  Today is one of those days where I wish you were sitting across from me in a coffee shop with a cup of coffee, so that we could have this discussion eye-to-eye.  How I wish I could hear your thoughts on this.  Maybe you too struggle understanding this concept like I do.  Maybe you experience victory on some days while other days are filled with defeat?

I'm reading a great book by Charles F. Stanley called the Wonderful Spirit-filled Life.  It is a great read, much to ponder and to explore; a book I can really recommend.

I don't know about you, but good enough is not good enough for me.

I do not just want to get by every day in my walk with God.  I truly believe that it must be possible to live a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit if the Bible talks about it.  God is bigger than my temper and my impatience.  I do not want to settle for mediocre if He said it could be otherwise.

Dr. Stanley writes, "The power of the Holy Spirit is available only to those whose intention is to carry out His will."

Good one.

Do I vie for His power added to my will?  If so, no wonder I'm getting nowhere!

Every time I study the fruit of the Spirit  I end up at John 15, the very well known verses from John 15, "5 'I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.'


Each time I have to ask God what it means?

What does this look like in day to day living? How do I remain in Him?  Jesus answers this question just a few verses down by saying that when we obey His commands we remain in Him.  Yet He desires our obedience to be so much more than that of the Pharisees who was excellent at obeying the commands, but lacked love for Him.

"The Spirit-filled life is a life of faith," according to Dr. Stanley.

Do you remain in the Vine?  Does your life look different from those who do not proclaim Christ?  Are your days filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  I know I want mine to be filled that way.

I will end this with another quote from Dr. Stanley, "Apart form the Helper (Holy Spirit) life is reduced to doing the best we can......The Spirit-filled life begins once we are absolutely and thoroughly convinced that we can do nothing apart from the indwelling strength of the Holy Spirit."

How does this play out in your life?   I would love to know.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Walk the walk

Integrity.
I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a person with integrity.  The short and sweet version is to simply walk the walk.  

According to the dictionary integrity can be defined as:
the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness; 
2  the state of being whole and undivided.

Honest.  Undivided.  A state of being whole.  This simply means I should be the same person while chatting to the moms dropping kids off at school than the person I am around my kids when no one from church is around.  I think of this every Sunday morning when we scurry around to get ready for church; so often tempers flare, tears roll in the mission to make it to the church on time.  We finally arrive at church sweaty and in less than worshipping attitudes, but politely say our "fine-thank-you-how-are-yous" as expected of any decent Christian family. Integrity?

I have come to realize that integrity or lack thereof will probably be one of the most important influences that shape my children's perceptions of my walk with God.  It scares me.  So often I preach at them, while so little of God's joy or the fruit of the Spirit is seen in my life.  I want to be the real deal.  Don't get me wrong, I did not say, the perfect deal, just real.  Part of being real is to own up to my mistakes, using it as an example to teach them how we can go to God with our shortcomings or things we struggle to overcome, how we can seek forgiveness and start again.  I just have to challenge myself this morning by asking how often I do that, instead of copping out by playing the all powerful adult. 

Honest. Undivided. Whole.  

Only by His grace.

I want that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Answered prayer?

God answered an important prayer of mine today.

Relief washed over me when I realized that what I feared was not about to happen.  I have been challenged by various circumstances this week, and with each one I just told God I will trust Him, no matter what.  No easy matter, I can assure you.  This post is not about my incredible faith, because I confess that I so often lack even the tiny mustard seed of faith Jesus talked about.  I mentioned to a friend that God's answer to my prayer made me realize that He really does hear me and that I so desperately needed to know that He does.  Then I realized that I assumed He heard only because things worked out as I had pleaded with Him.  Does this imply that He never heard me the countless other times things did not go my way, or when the unthinkable did happen?

Maybe you are familiar with the song we sing so often during our church services, it is a song based on Job's words after everything but his life was taken from him, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes, blessed be the Name of the Lord."
The song has a catchy tune, so it is easy to sing passionately along, but I find myself very aware of what those words imply, because sometimes God does allow the very thing we fear the most, sometimes He answers "No", sometimes He is seemingly silent.  I change the words when we sing this song, because I have come to realize how difficult it is to say "He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away, but still my heart will say, Lord blessed be Your Name"; when all we see is life through a mirror.  Instead I sing, "He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away, Lord help me to say, blessed be Your Name."

God has brought me back to earth when I thought I could make claims about my reaction to life once before, since then I have come to know that there is no way I will be able to face life's challenges on my own, or with my own take on things.  How I desire to love and trust Him like that, though, to love Him with reckless abandonment, to follow Him no matter what the earthly outcome may be, just resting in the assurance of His faithfulness.

Until then my prayer remains, Lord help me to say, blessed be Your Name no matter what Your answer to my prayers may be.

Have you discovered such a love for Him?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

SPEAK UP!!!!!

Sometimes good intentions are not enough.
Sometimes our good wishes and eloquent quips are not enough.
Sometimes life demands ACTION.
I am acutely aware of that fact today, for reasons not fit to share on such a public domain.  God is shouting in my heart today, "SPEAK UP!  Christelle, SPEAK UP!" Speak up against injustice and wrong doing.  Do not just sit with your arms folded and hands clasped in prayer, SPEAK UP! Take action! Defend the rights of the defenseless.

Sometimes it is not sufficient to say, "I'll pray for you."  I have to ask myself if I use the I'll-pray-for-you phrase because it is so easy for me to then wash my hands without actually getting involved, having to leave my comfort zone, and getting my hands dirty?
It is not good enough to see a world filled with hardship, broken lives and hurting people and shrug my shoulders thanking God that luckily it is not me.
SPEAK UP! for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of those who are destitute.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spill

"Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others as is fitting to the need and occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace [God's favor] to those who hear it."
Eph 4:29 (Amplified Bible)

Whew! A bit more descriptive than "put a watch over your mouth".  I am acutely aware of the power of words.  My words.  Especially when I hear my words through my kids' mouths.  I hear my tone of voice, see my gestures, very often I can even detect the same amount of irritability mirrored in their voices.  Humbling to say the least.

This verse really speaks to me, because the usual rendering in the NIV just says, "Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth."  Easy enough to generalize it and think it is just about swearing or making off color remarks and pretend that I am not that guilty on those charges.  A closer look at the verse reveals that it is so much more than that.  I have to question if my words are good and beneficial, if they are a blessing. Do they give grace to those who have to listen to me or when I talk about someone else?  There is a fine line between talking about someone out of concern and using concern as a cover-up for gossip.  Are my words a blessing to those who listen to me?  Or do my words tear down and cut those I love just so I could win an argument or get my point across?

I cannot help to think of an illustration Beth Moore gave in one of her Bible studies.  She explained the verse "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks".  She used the example of someone holding an overfull jug, whenever anyone bumps into the one holding the jug, whatever fills the jug will spill. The same is true of us.  What jumps out of my mouth when life pushes against me, is a clear indication of what fills my heart.  Oh! How I pray that when the life gets knocked out of me with demands and frustrations that what will overflow from my heart and mouth will glorify Him.  I've got such a long way to go, but thank God for His promise to keep working on us till Christ's return.

Anybody else learned a few lessons in this area of our lives?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Radical

Enough with "Bible-Lite".

If you haven't had the time to read David Platt's book, Radical: Taking your faith back from the American Dream, take the time to read it.  It is a thought provoking book that challenged me on many levels of my walk with God.  To say the least I was very uncomfortable at times, as someone who endorsed the book wrote, "often people say I couldn't put the book down, but in this case I often wanted to put the book down...".  I couldn't agree more, not because the book was bad, but because it highlighted truths in God's Word that I would for comfort's sake rather pretend didn't exist.

It seems to me that God works in themes with me.  Without a doubt the current theme is to live the life and walk the walk.  For the record I can talk the talk.  I've had years to practice.  But unfortunately that will not cut it the day I will have to give an account of what I did with the live given to me. 

I have lulled my conscience to sleep, too grateful that I do know Christ and that I live in the comfort of a First World country where I can have my tall decaf in a grande cup, just so.
Platt writes that we have somehow construed a reality where the church has left missions to the people "called" to missionary work, and the rest of us are sometimes too glad that we can support the work from the comfort of our homes, rather than actually reaching out ourselves.  Truth is,  Christ didn't give this mission only to the select few, we as the church all have the responsibility to take His Word to those that will spend eternity without Him.   

One Billion people have never heard the name of Jesus.

One Billion.

Easy to sit at my computer and shrug my shoulders, hoping that someone else will do something about it.  
After reading Platt's book, I cannot.  He called me, He called you, He called all of us professing faith in Him.

Fact is we are not entitled to any of the blessings God has bestowed on us.  None of it.  We like to think we are self-made, but we're not.  All the security we build our lives upon can be erased in the wink of an eye.  If we are blessed with knowing Him, it is to share Him with those who don't.  If we have more than our share of daily bread it is not meant for us to be overfed, but to feed those who are hungry.

In the end as Platt brilliantly wrote God will not say, "I wish you kept more to yourself."

Where do we begin?  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slave

Are you a slave?

John MacArthur's latest book called Slave, comes at the right time.  We have been bombarded by books focusing on me
Here are just a few titles:
The ME I Want to Be,
Living Your Best Life,
Become a Better You,
Living the Life You were Meant to Live.
Help Your Kids Feel Good about Themselves

I am by no means bashing these books, but very often a personal relationship with Jesus is depicted as nothing more than what He can do for me; how Jesus can change me, fulfill me, help me reach my dreams, my destiny, how He has a special plan for me etc. I do believe that God changes us and wants to be in a personal relationship with us, the danger exists that a self centered worldview subtly overtakes us, where we say all the right Biblical things, but in the end it just provided a way for us to place the spotlight on ourselves.

People everywhere are trying to find themselves.  We try to find our purpose in life. How many books have been written on the subject?  Can it be that the reason we are in desperate search of ourselves is because we are not comfortable with the Biblical truth that we have been created for God and that our sole purpose on earth is to bring Him glory?  Can it be that we do not like that truth because we would rather have some of that glory for ourselves?

MacArthur's well researched book shows how through translation the word "slave" was replaced by "servant".  This was not done to deceive people but merely an effort to find a word that was not laden with such negative images of what human slavery gone bad looked like.  What resulted however, is a New Testament written with the image of servant instead of slave, shaping our perceptions as Christians that instead of being completely sold out to Jesus, being totally dependent on Him, living to please Him in all we do, we've opted for servanthood, which implies being in His service according to our own whims.

A servant gets paid.
A slave has no personal identity except for being owned by His Master.

No personal identity?  Sounds a little too much for people living in the modern world where all we often try to find is our own identity, or as Ortberg writes in his book, The Me I Want to Be, "you-ier".

We prefer to call the shots in our lives, spending our time building our dreams and visions for what life should be like, and often we end up in captivity.  Enslaved to our schedules, our stuff, our debt, our addictions.  The reality of our captivity escapes us however, because we fool ourselves into believing we are free, because we call the shots.  So often we'd rather drag the shackles of our own captivity behind us than being called a slave of Christ.

Could it be that we still don't trust our Master?  That we envision Him with a whip, filled with selfish desires, angry and hostile?

I love how Numbers cuts through this false belief, "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"


I don't know about you, but I am tired of being in chains because I want to be the master.

More than just not being human, God does not have a dark, twisted side; "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all."

I want a Master like that.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Don't withhold

"Do not withhold good from those whom it is due, when it is in your power to act." Prov. 3:27

This is my memory verse for the next two weeks, and ever since I have chosen it, God has provided plenty of opportunities to remind me of it!
At first I thought the verse really fit in with our ministry to reach out to others, but very soon I realized that it is applicable in our home so many times each day.
"Mom!!!! Can I have some water pleaaaaazzzee?" 
"Maaammmaaaa! Where are my shoes?"
"I cannot tie my tennis shoe!" 
"May I have a snack-y?"
"Will you please cancel my dentist appointment?"

I feel the urge to withhold the good from those whom it is due because it is MOMMY time, but now the Spirit reminds me that it is in my power to act.  I have to choose to act. I have the power to serve my family, with or without grumbling.  This is not easy for me, Mommy time is really scarce and so often I would serve my family with irritation, born from the desire to protect MY precious minutes.  Is it only me, but ever since I have kids God has shown me so many things in my personality that I do not like?  Kids are like little magnifying glasses on our flaws!

My prayer for today is that God will provide me with what I need through His Spirit to use the power to act He has given me for the good of those closest to me as well as for those we hope to reach.

Only by His grace
Christelle

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Too Small to Ignore

I love the title of Wess Stafford's book, Too Small to Ignore: Why the Least of These Matters the Most.  Wess serves as the President of Compassion International, a fabulous child development organization that serves over a million children worldwide.

In his book Wess explains the complexity of poverty, and really gets to the real root of it - something I have been searching for since I was a freshman in college.  I was studying Social Work at the time and clearly recall my first home visit.  I walked into the overcrowded house in the midst of winter and I was saddened to see a girl I met earlier the year living there.  She was a very promising student, but when I asked her what her plans for the future were, none of it included college because there would be no way for her family to afford it.  She was going to find a job and stay with her parents.  And though there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing that I became aware of the lack of options her situation left her in.

According to Wess, poverty is a lack of options.  He goes on to explain that with that lack of options comes a lack of hope for a better future, or even the dream that things might be different.  He writes that soon the child begins to believe that they themselves must be worthless.  If I am worth nothing, if nothing can ever change why should I try?

This is where Compassion International has a unique way of reaching out to children, they reach out beyond the kids' physical needs (which are also met in many different ways), they also reach out to the child's spirit and tells them of a Savior that loves them very much.  As soon as a child gets a grasp that the God of all creation knows them by name and loves them, hope is born into their hearts.  That hope is fostered through education, health care, physical care and a letter writing relationship from a sponsor, often a world away.  And the miracle of one child being released from poverty in Jesus' Name starts to happen!

One of the most important things Wess writes is that we all can make a difference each time a child crosses our path, be it in a shopping mall, at school, at church, we should regard that as a Divine opportunity to have a positive influence on that child.  A kind word of encouragement or a smile goes a long way and even if it seems unimportant to us, might leave a lasting impact on a child.

Let's remind ourselves of this truth when we see our own kids, but also when our paths cross those of other little people.  For little people are a big deal to our God.

If you are interested in becoming a Child Sponsor through Compassion International click on the link below:

In His grip
Christelle

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Little Hands Helping

Welcome to our blog! 


Little Hands Helping was born out of the awareness of the multitude of needs of children across the globe, and the frustration of not knowing how to help. The needs far outweigh what any individual or single family can do, and can be overwhelming at times.  We realized that very often the magnitude of needs leave people despondent or overwhelmed and as a result uninvolved.   We decided to become involved as a family and teach our children that even if their hands and they themselves are little, they still can make a difference and even though the difference might be small, it is better than no difference at all.
We want to inspire other families to get involved too by showing them that involvement does not have to be complicated or necessarily cost a lot of money, but that it has more to do with an attitude of the heart.
 


From Left to Right:
Bernu: Our happy, energetic little boy with a passion for all God's sea  creatures and an expert on Dinosaurs and Creationism!

Chris: He is the brains behind Little Hands Helping.  He has excellent leadership skills and helps with all the logistics behind the scenes.  He loves the outdoors, he is an avid rugby supporter, and loves to spend time with his family.

Christelle: I like to think I am the heart behind Little Hands Helping, God has answered my prayer to break my heart with the things that breaks His.  I love to learn and read and spend time with my family.

Carli: She is a 6 year old with a gentle spirit that loves Jesus and finds joy in the beauty of all He has created.  She loves to do crafts and to color and is a budding young artist with a heart for people.

 
I hope you will join us on our journey as we try to reach out and help bring hope to children in Jesus' Name! 



Meet Lene' Isabel the newest pair of little hands!
She is only 5 months old but has already brought so much joy to our family!