Monday, March 27, 2017

Sold Out From the Start


I hate to admit how slow I've been in finishing the James study, but it's taken me several days to do the first day of week 5 (Doing and Being). 

My topic today was James 1:25. "But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it." nlt

The one who "looks carefully" is like someone who leans over to inspect something intently and continues to inspect until all is understood.

Studying Scripture the way God intended is supposed to be deliberate and in-depth, but it's much more than attending a class or filling in blanks to answer questions. 

Looking carefully into God's Word requires that we "see" the Scripture with such clarity that we also understand how it applies to our lives. We must take what we've learned and allow God's Word to change us. 

I read something today that slashed me with conviction: 

"The early disciples took what they'd learned in three years with Jesus and applied it to take the gospel literally around the world. We have these truths we're studying because of their efforts. 

"I've had many more than three years of teaching, but I haven't used what I've learned to make the kind of impact they made. Why not? 

"The biggest difference in them and me is that they were sold out from the start. They literally laid everything down for Christ and He blessed their sacrifice in ways too big to fully comprehend." (from James: Living a Life Worth Living)

"Sold out from the start."

The first disciples were so changed by the teachings of Christ that they spent the rest of their lives doing what He'd said. Teaching. Making disciples. Following. 

They suffered terribly for it, but they pressed on. Why? Because they allowed the Word of God to change them so completely that obedience was the only thing that mattered.

We're supposed to be so changed by God's Word that obedience is the only thing that matters to us, too. But are we?

Today, let's embrace God's Word with transformation as our first priority. Let's invite our Lord to change us into the obedient disciples He intended us to be, the kind of disciples that turn the world right-side-up for Him.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Proving Our Repentance by Our Actions


*** I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch (and Jordanian food sampling) April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS, and you're all invited. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.***


If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#Jesus 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Shouting Scripture and the Author Who Didn't Want to Write


I know the Bible isn't written for humor, but every once in a while, I read something that makes me laugh out loud. 

This morning, I opened my laptop to write a blog, but time was short because I had a meeting in less than two hours and I didn't have a topic. Jet lag had finally hit and I was tired. 

I thought I was too tired to write. 

I also have final edits to complete and an agent-proposal to write for my first novel. 

I thought I was too tired to do that, too. 

Since it's always better to open Scripture first before I write a blog, that's what I did. My first verse was James 1:22. "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only." I learned that verse as a little girl and it's ingrained in me. 

I'm a doer. 

Today, however, I followed the link to the Greek word study for "doer" and found the literal translation. 

"Maker, producer, author." 

I laughed out loud. 

"Be an author," the Scripture shouted to me. 

Apparently, I'm not too tired to write, after all. 

If we want to hear from God, the first place we should go is Scripture. It's alive and active and sharper than a two-edged sword. God whispers there. 

Sometimes, like today, He shouts.

Do you, like me, need to hear from God? Do you need clear direction? A fresh Word? The best way to have that is to open your Bible and read until He speaks.

Hearing Him speak is not all that's required. Doing what He speaks is essential if we hope to have another Word of direction. 

If I don't write, I can be pretty sure God will be quiet until I finally do what He says.

Today, I'll write.

Let's take careful note of what God has already said and do it, then wait quietly for His next direction. 

"For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between join and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." Hebrews 4:12 nlt 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Loving My Way Out

I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.

If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#Jesus 




Friday, March 24, 2017

Loving My Way Out


I've had a lot of repenting to do. 


That's why it's taken me a while to get through the humility section in the James study. Today, I finally reached the "prayer pause" for day seven. 


The passage of Scripture was from Philippians 2:5-8. (Here's the Leanna paraphrase) Jesus was in heaven, being God, and it was a fabulous life. However, mankind was in a mess and desperately needed saving. 


Jesus-God loved mankind so much that He did what had to be done. He emptied Himself of all His magnificance and became a man, which is a drastically lower creature. 


Imagine for a moment becoming a mouse or a dung beetle. Who would want to do that? No one. 


Becoming a man was even more drastic for Jesus.


Jesus didn't become a rich and powerful man. He became a bondslave kind of man. A servant. It was the lowest station possible, and He did it so that He could serve with love. 


He chose to demonstrate love, and He did it in stark contrast to typical human love.


Here's the hard part. We're supposed to love His way, too.


In medical school, we had a phrase that describes learning pretty aptly. "See one. Do one. Teach one." We learn by seeing and doing. When we can teach a skill, we know it well.


That's what Jesus expected. We "see" love in Him. We "do" love as He did it. We "teach" others by the effectiveness of our love-example.


I read this from the James study today and the words stabbed me in the heart: 


"He (Jesus) intended for us to love each other, and to do it in such a way that the world would be stunned by the depth of love we exhibited toward one another.


"Our love is supposed to be a living diorama to the lost and perishing people around us. A diorama of the love God has for the world. 


"The problem most of us have is not that we don't love those believers who are most like us. The problem is that we don't love those believers who are least like us, those "seekers" who are least like us." 


Wham.  

I'm the one. I'm the one who doesn't love enough.

I don't like this unlovely category I'm in at all. I want out of it. Today, I realized that the only way to change my "station" is to love my way out.

The picture, above, is of the doctors and one of the nurses who served in Ajloun, Jordan. They loved like Jesus loved. Ask anyone in Ajloun. Muslims and Christians alike told me that they loved everyone, regardless of station or religion.  

They showed the love of Christ to all because they loved as Christ loved. They left their important positions in their native countries and humbled themselves to do whatever was needed in Jordan. Their loved changed a major portion of the nation.

Our love, if it were Christ-love, could do that, too. IF.

Our love could become a living diorama to a lost and perishing world. IF we would do what we've seen in Christ. IF we would love everyone, regardless of our differences.

I've spent a bit of time pondering how it would look if I were a diorama of love.  

First, my attitudes would have to change. Then, I'd have to choose love as my first response. Not judgment. Not fear. Not criticism or pride or superiority.

I'd have to choose love. Every time.

What about you? What would it take for you to be a living diorama of God's love?

Let's give it a try. Today, let's choose love first, then keep choosing love. No matter what. 

When people think we're being naive or foolish, let's choose love anyway.

When there's the possibility that people will take advantage of our love, let's love anyway, for that's exactly what Christ did.

God knew we'd be extravagant with the grace offered us, yet miserly with the grace we give to others. He loved anyway.

So should we. Today, let's make a start.

Who's with me?

"This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you." John 15:12 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Priority of People, Not Places


I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.


If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach (both in the US and around the world), here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.


#Jesus




Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Priority of People, Not Places


My presentation about the Jordan trip is finally done, and I'm sharing it with our prayer partners at a nursing facility in Fulton today. Those sweet friends prayed me through. Today, they're getting their fruit report.

I've read back over my notes and looked through every photograph. The presentation's filled with pictures of Jordan, Israel, the Biblical sites I visited, Masada, the Bedouin trip, and the camels we rode. 

All those photographs are interesting, but they aren't the real story. The "real story" is the people I met and loved, and the ones who loved me back. The photographs of the new believer, the pastors who labor in the field, and the churches that are struggling to survive in difficult times despite heartbreaking persecution are the ones that matter most. 

I've saved them, the best part of the trip, for last.

Sunday, I skipped the museum trip and walked around Jerusalem. I wanted living people, not ancient history.

I sat on a bench with a elderly man who offered me a cigarette, which I declined, and listened to him talk about his life and home in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Teenagers from the United States chatted with me as they set up fake musical instruments for a YouTube video. I listened as they shared about their videos and performances and reveled in their excitement about filming outside the Damascus gate of Old Jerusalem.

A tourist from Michigan shared her excitement about visiting Israel for the first time.

A Palestinian man shared his lunch with me while we sat in a Muslim cemetery beneath the Eastern Gate.

It was the people that made the day memorable. They're the part I hope I remember forever.

As I looked over my photographs, I realized that I can easily be so drawn to the beauty of a setting and it's historical significance that I miss the people there. I'm afraid I do that here at home, too. 

It's easy for me to get so wrapped up in my work that I neglect the people in my life. I fail to schedule lunches with friends because "there's too much to do to take a break." I eat a quick meal at home and go back to work rather than invite people over. 

If I'm not careful, I can end up investing my life in work and words and places and things rather than the people God has placed in my life.

There will always be work to do, prayers to pray, places to go. People, though, are fragile, fleeting creatures who can't be recalled once they're gone. Today, I'm choosing to be more intentional about the friends and family I love, respect, and cherish. 

Who do you cherish? With what friends should you reconnect today? What family member needs a phone call or a text? Work can't be avoided, but let's take the time to reach out to those we love, as well. Let's show the love we say we feel.

"Three things will last forever- faith, hope, love - and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13 NLT
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ps - The photo above is of Maria Geno, project manager for Global Outreach Home office, Ruthie Howard (Uganda) and Misty Bodkin (crisic management)

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Wearing the White Servant Scarf

I'm sharing about my Jordan Journey at a brunch April 1 at 10:30-12 at Global Outreach home office, 74 Kings Highway, Pontotoc MS. Comment or message me if you'd like to come.


If God has called you to help with this ministry of digital and in-person outreach, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.

#Jesus







Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wearing the White Servant-Scarf


I tried to do the James study while I was in the Middle East. The internet was so variable, though, that I finally decided to wait until I could access the links to the good stuff.

This morning, I resumed work on the section on "Humility As An Instrument of Unity." (week4/day7) The topic was "clothing yourself with humility". The link led me to blueletterbible.org where I found that the word translated as "clothe yourself" is egkomboomai. 

Clothing yourself with humility is a reference to the white scarf or apron worn by slaves. The white cloth was worn only by slaves, but not by freemen. Specifically, it was a symbol worn by the bondservant, one who has bound himself to his master permanently.

Imagine that for a moment.

We are to clothe ourselves with such humility that people will recognize us as servants. Specifically, people should see our humility and say, "That person belongs to Jesus," simply based on how we serve.

I'm not there yet, but I know a group of people who are.

During the Global mission retreat in Jordan and Israel, people from Crossbound Church in Amory, MS and West Jackson Street Baptist Church in Tupelo, MS went along to assist. Their job was to do whatever was necessary to help the missionaries enjoy the conference.

They sat in the back. Held crying babies. Played outside with the older children. Took walks with missionaries. Listened. Hugged. Smiled constantly. Went through the line last. Stayed out of the limelight.

They were so quiet in their service that I sometimes forgot they were there. Mostly, that's because they were busy serving.

When the rest of left to go to Israel, a large group of these sweet servers remained behind. They stayed to serve some more, this time with Syrian refugees.

These precious people donned their humility like a bondslave and served as one who is no longer free. They did a mighty work. They lifted the burden of weary parents, offered a listening ear, a helping hand.

They did whatever their hand found to do, and they did it with all their might.

They wore the white scarf of servanthood. It wasn't a literal scarf, but they were clearly bondslaves, all the same. 

As I've pondered their service this morning, I've wondered about my own white scarf of servanthood. Do I ever serve in such a seamless way that I'm not even noticeable? Do people see me and think I look like a servant of Jesus?

What about you? Does your style of service point people to Jesus?

If not, let's do what it takes to wear the white scarf, serve like Jesus did, and point those we serve to Him.

"Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5 nasb
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photo by Dianna Duffy (white scarf wearer while we were in Jordan/Israel)

I'm hosting a brunch on April 1, 10:30-12, at Global Outreach home office (74 Kings Highway Pontotoc MS) I'll share photos and stories from my trip to Jordan/Israel and we'll sample Jordanian food.

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Thoughts and Thanks on Returning Home After Three Weeks Abroad

This ministry is so much more than a blog. Speaking. Teaching. Hands-on outreach. Connecting with and encouraging missionaries around the world. It's only possible because of the generosity of your support. 

Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#Jesus







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thoughts (and Thanks) on Returning Home After Three Weeks Abroad


I climbed into my own bed, in my own home, just after 10:30 pm Monday night. I'd been away for three hard, wonderful, life-changing weeks. 

The next blog post will be more typical, but, today, I'm sharing a few thoughts about my trip. 

Three weeks of non-stop intercession is a long time. The first half of the trip was a mission-trip of intercession in the Middle East. The last part of my trip was spent at a Global member care mission retreat in Jordan and Israel. I spent the retreat time with missionaries, listening, laughing, and connecting. I prayed with and for our missionaries almost non-stop. 

It took me a while to understand that the second part of my journey was a mission-trip of intercession, too. 

Communication was harder than I anticipated. I didn't blog as much as I'd expected while I was gone, nor iMessage, nor text. The time difference was confusing. While I was awake, the majority of people who follow my blog were snug in their beds.

Most of the time, my internet connections were terrible, at best. I would frequently start an email or blog post, then lose internet connection before I could finish. 

I missed being constantly connected, but being without that connection was freeing, as well. 

Your prayers made a huge difference. I know that you were praying for me, because you commented on Facebook posts, emailed, and messaged. You kept communicating, even when I couldn't respond, and I'm so very grateful. 

You made a huge difference in my ability to persevere. Thank you. 

Through your support, you were as much a part of the work as I was. I couldn't have gone if people hadn't supported me with prayer, hands-on help to keep my at-home responsibilities going, and financial gifts. 

You all made it possible, and you all share in the fruit. (I'll let you know more about that fruit soon.) Thank you. 

Because of those serving in dangerous locations, I couldn't share everything I did, and I still can't. Not every nation has as much religious freedom as we have in the U.S. Protecting believers who are in at-risk locations is critical, so I can share more in-person than online. 

There's more work to be done. Our new "virtual prayer walk" will allow you to participate in the ongoing work of intercession from the comfort of your home. I hope to have that ready to go in the next couple of weeks and would love to share with your church, Sunday School class, or small group. I'm happy to do an in-your-home presentation, too. Please invite me. 

You can go. The Great Commission applies to all of us. Whether you participate via a virtual prayer walk, by adopting a national on the field for prayer, or by going overseas, you, too, can help with the work of the mission, and you should. 

There are tremendous needs and opportunities for those interested in doing a short-term mission trip. Prayer walking. Visits to schools. Help with English-as-a-second-language classes. Sports camps. Computer workshops. (I'Encouraging believers. Loving those who aren't believers. Playing with kids. 

It's all important and we need you to help. Everywhere I went, I felt as "safe" as I do here at home. If you're interested in making a trip to the Middle East, or if your church might be interested, let me know. Even a 7-10 day trip can make an enormous difference for the Kingdom of God.

The work of mission is harder than I knew. It's also sweeter. 

People who serve on the other side of the globe do it knowing that they'll miss birthdays, holidays, and fun-time at home with family and friends, but that God will bless them for their sacrifice.

They miss hearing their heart-language. 

They miss the foods, luxuries, and simple conveniences of home. I saw two missionaries more excited over four boxes of cake mix than I could quite comprehend and quite a few adults and children who were beyond excited over bags of chocolate chips.

Simply preparing meals for their families is a tremendous undertaking, and fast-food options are few and very far between. 

Missionaries on tight budgets do without. 

Cold showers are common, and so are water shortages. When the monthly allotment of water is used up, you have to purchase more at an extravagant rate or do without showers and baths. 

Electricity is a luxury. When you're dependent on solar-power, it's hard to have electricity in the rainy season. Even when it's sunny, there may only be electricity for a few hours a day.

Outdoor kitchens and cooking over an  open fire are more common methods of food preparation than I realized. One of our missionaries shared her cooking-on-flat-stones techniques with me as if it were the most normal method of food preparation in the world. It probably is.

I should be praying harder for these precious people, and I will be going forward. I hope you will be, too.

Not all the fruit of intercession is instant. Our culture has a microwave, fast food mind set that expects instant results. The work of on-site intercession does not bend to those rules, but I wish it did.

I saw God move, on the spot, many times. We also prayed prayers for which answers weren't immediately forthcoming, but I'm confident that God will answer in due time. 

I've come to understand the power of story-telling in a deeper way, and I have lots of stories to share. I don't know if they'll be individual blog posts or an all-together ebook, but they'll probably be a combination of both.

Rest is more important than I realized, and it's not optional for disciples of Christ. We took Sabbath rests that were actually rest. It was incredibly refreshing. I learned that  occasional rest and recreation are required if you hope to stay consistently productive. 

I work out of a state of exhaustion more often than not, and my "rest" usually looks a lot more like work than it should. It's not God's plan, and I'm sufficiently convicted about my failure. I'll be resting intentionally more often going forward. 

Home is wherever the Spirit of God is, so I'm comfortable almost anywhere. I already knew this, but I think some people may have been surprised. I felt completely at home in Jordan and completely at home in Israel. When I headed out alone for a day of rambling in Jerusalem, it seemed the most natural thing in the world. 

I'm glad to be home in Blue Springs, but I miss the Middle East more than I expected. It's home now, too. 

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20 NLT

"And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere - in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8 NLT
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How you can help:
1) Like and share to extend my digital reach
2) Invite me to share about my trip. I have great pictures and fun stories. 

In case you missed my last blog post, here's the link: Letters on the Judas Rock


This ministry is so much more than a blog. Speaking. Teaching. Hands-on outreach. Connecting with and encouraging missionaries around the world. It's only possible because of the generosity of your support. 

Together, we're making progress, but help is still needed. (I don't get a salary until this ministry is funded) If God has called you to help, here's the link to give your tax-deductible donations: Global Outreach Acct 4841 or you can mail your check or money order to:
Global Outreach/ PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802. Be sure to put Account 4841 in the "for" line.
#Jesus











Sunday, March 19, 2017

Letters on the Judas Rock


One of the most unusual things I've seen this trip was in an out-of-the-way church on the Mount of Olives. It was adjacent to The Grotto, and filled with beautiful artwork. 

Some of the paintings appeared to have been restored, while others were nearly obscured beneath centuries of grime. 


I made my way around the room, looking at the paintings, and finally arrived at a kind of enclosed shrine. Inside, there was a large rectangle of rock encased in glass. 


The Judas rock.

It was (reportedly) the rock on which Judas was standing when he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. A narrow opening under the top covering was just wide enough to allow a piece of paper to slip through.

The rock was covered with randomly scattered money and hastily written notes.


I stared at the slips of paper and money and wondered why there was a shrine to the betrayer... 


Why would anyone identify with Judas? Why leave letters on the Judas rock? Why leave money?

I struggled with this for days. Did people think Judas could answer their prayers? That the money would redeem their sin?


It took me a while to come to the conclusion that no one wants to identify with Judas. The problem is that we already identify with Judas because we, too, are betrayers. 


We, too, put our focus on money, things, success, prestige. 

We, too, put what we want before the call of Christ. 

We put pleasing ourselves before our relationship with Christ. 

I include myself in that corporate "we," for, though I hate to admit it, I still put my own desires before Jesus. My first thought is, all too often, what I want in a particular situation, rather than what Christ wants. 

I usually find my way to seeking God's will, but that first burst of "Leanna worship" is a betrayal of the higher call to the will of God. Neither dollars nor letters of contrition can change that. 

Only the grace of God is sufficient. 

It's the greatest paradox that our Holy God would exact the price for our sin from Himself, but He did, and He offers that redemption to all who will receive it.

What can wash away the stain of sin? The black shroud of betrayal? Nothing. Nothing but the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. 

Today, let's choose to love God first and love others as we love ourselves. In so doing, we live as those who have been redeemed. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post, The Rocks That Rocked the World

Please help extend our digital reach by liking and sharing this post.
#Jesus