Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Five Dollar Miracle


I had the most beautiful experience yesterday. It was too wonderful not to share. 

Shortly after I arrived at Global, I met the Anthonys, a missionary couple who serve in Honduras. They were my first Untapped Power Grid missionaries, so they're special to me.

While they were home on furlough, they spoke at Hope Church. James talked about a "Five for February" fund raiser they had done. They were doing a building project and every board cost about $5. They asked people to donate five dollars in February. So many people responded that they were able to complete their building project. They did it with five dollar donations. 

It was such a simple concept that I asked God to give me a "five dollar program". 

I calculated all manner of options for what five dollars could do in a prayer ministry, including how far I could drive on five dollars. Nothing worked, so I dropped the idea (mostly), but would occasionally remind God about the five dollar deal.

This week, a friend who has received my blog by morning text since before it was actually a blog asked to come by. She had something to bring me, she said.

She came yesterday. We sat down with a pot of tea and thick slices of zucchini bread. She had a gift bag and a beautiful box. "I need to explain about this box," she told me, so we sat down for a chat. 

A year ago, she was struggling in her relationship with God and asked Him to speak to her and help her with spiritual discipline. He put on her heart, among other things, to save all her $5 bills for the next year. 

She's faithfully saved every $5 bill that's come her way. This week, she asked God what she should do with the money. She wanted to bless the people who'd poured into her life over the years. The answer was very clear. "The $5 bills are for Leanna."  

It's was quite a wad, and it totals a donation of $490. "It can help with your travels," she told me. She didn't know it, but I'm planning a prayer trip to an as-yet-undisclosed location, and that money will go a long way toward covering my trip. 

God orchestrated that $5 deal before I had the first conversation about me partnering with Global in some way.

Before I'd become a missionary with Global Outreach.

Before I'd met the Anthonys. 

Before I heard about the Five for February fund raiser.

Before I'd asked Him for a $5 deal.

She was faithful all that time, even though she didn't understand what God was doing. 

The evening before she came, I wrote to one of our missionaries, "Our Father knows your name. He knows your need. He'll provide."

Yesterday, He spoke those same words right back to me in a tangible way. 

We both shed tears over that box of bills. 

He knows my name and He loves me in such personal ways that I'm utterly astounded. He loves us; He loves you in that same exquisitely personal way. 

I'm looking forward to seeing what other sweet and beautiful things our Dad has planned for us in the coming year. He's such a good, good Father... 

"How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand."
Psalm 139:17,18 nasb
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I need your prayers the most, so, if you can only do one thing to help with this ministry, please let it be prayer for me to be a faithful, creative, and effective witness for Christ. 

If you'd like to make a $5 donation of your own to help support this ministry, here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing
#Christian #devotional

Friday, December 30, 2016

Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing


I've written about the mission statement of Jesus more than once, mainly because Jesus consistently had it in mind. (click here and here for those previous articles)

We have a well-rounded, meet-every-need Savior. 

In a very real way, He actively "kept the main thing the main thing." Jesus had a teaching/preaching ministry, healing ministry, feeding ministry, deliverance ministry, and a prayer ministry. He did it all, but not necessarily all on the same day. 

Early in His ministry, Jesus was in Capernaum. He taught in the synagogue there, then healed the sick and cast out demons. 

At the end of a very long, hard day, He went to "a lonely place" to pray, but the multitude crowded in. "Please don't leave. We want you to do some more exciting things. We have more people who need healing. We need more miracles." (That's the Leanna paraphrase, but it seems, from Scripture, as if that's what they meant.) 

Jesus declined their invitation. What He told them is interesting in light of all He'd done in their town.

"I didn't come just to dazzle you with miracles. I came to preach the Kingdom of God in as many places as possible." (This is the Leanna paraphrase of Luke 4:43) 

His objective was not a healed body, but a healed soul.

That's it. The Kingdom of God is the "main thing," and Jesus kept that in mind. He did many other types of ministry, but all were done with the purpose of sharing the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

It should be our "main thing," too. Every act of mercy, bit of food handed to the hungry, shelter for the homeless, bit of clothing for the naked, and every visit to the imprisoned should be done with one objective in mind. Sharing the gospel of Christ. 

His mission statement should also be ours. We, too, should have as our objective to preach the gospel in as many places as possible.

Today, no matter what "job" we do, let's make the most important work a priority. Preach the gospel of Christ to all, whether in word or deed. 

***
I'm interested in the creative ways in which the Kingdom message is being preached.  How have you shared the gospel? What ministry efforts have you used to accomplish gospel-sharing? 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post:  Taking the Long View


As you consider your year-end giving, please consider including support for this ministry, which is totally dependent upon the support of those who partner with us. We need your prayers, your hands to help, and your financial gifts to continue.


Here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802
#Christian #devotional

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Eternal Perspective: Taking the Long View


God doesn't usually give me a spotlight to shine on my path and make the way clear. Most of the time, I have just enough light to take the next step. I can easily end up focused on the path rather than my destination.

Holding on to the big picture of eternity takes some effort.

When the angel delivered his message to Mary, a teenaged girl, his announcement changed the direction of her life forever. 

Until her angelic visitor arrived, she expected to marry Joseph, live in a room attached to his family's home, have children, serve her family. It would be hard work, but joyful. She and Joseph would grow old together.

In response to the angel's message, Mary replied, "I'm the bondslave of the Lord. I want what He wants." (Luke 1:38, Leanna Paraphrase)

Instead of the life she anticipated, she almost lost Joseph before the wedding, endured gossip and scorn, became a widow early, and watched her first-born Son die on a cross. It was a difficult, heartbreaking life.

Shortly after the angel delivered his shocking news, Mary visited her relative, Elizabeth, and spoke an amazing truth. "From this time on all generations will count me blessed..." She wouldn't be counted blessed any time soon, but one day she would. 

Mary chose the long view. The eternal perspective.

She understood that we're just passing through this world. No matter how hard, everything here is temporary. We will one day enter eternity, where there is no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more gossip, no more scorn. In our heavenly home, the truth will be known.

In that holy place, Mary's life would make sense to everyone, including those who scorned her. She chose to look toward eternity and it made her hard times bearable.

We'd be better served by focusing on eternity, too. This world is a broken place, filled with broken people. There's more than enough hurt and sorrow to go around. We'll all experience more pain than we want before our life is ended.

It's easy to let anger over the hard times grow and allow bitterness to take root.  It's a short-sighted response, though. 

No matter what we face, things will be different in eternity. One day, others will see how God used the circumstances of our lives to bring blessings, not curses. Everything will make sense. 

Today, let's take a look at our lives, and the circumstances we face, from an eternal perspective.One day, it will all make sense, so thank God in advance and embrace with joy the life He's give. . 
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post:  The Message in the Margin

As you consider your year-end giving, please consider including support for this ministry, which is totally dependent upon the support of those who partner with us. We need your prayers, your hands to help, and your financial gifts to continue.

Here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802

#Christian 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Message in the Margin: The Benefits Package



People have commented several times recently about my "worn and battered" Bible. The signs of twenty-plus years of continuous use have begun to show.

Some of the pages are tear-stained. 

Some of the pages have been read so many times that they're loose from the spine or worn through.

Some of the pages have notes all the way down the margins. 

Those notations are, generally speaking, Holy-Spirit inspired messages that address a specific need in my life. I've begun to call them "Messages in the Margins". 

I'm starting a new series, (probably a sporadic one) called "Messages in the Margins". It's drawn from the notations along the edges of the pages.

There's a note by Psalm 103 that reads, "The Benefits Package". This psalm of David is a song of praise to God for all the good gifts He gives us. 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul..." David wrote. My notation says, "Bless: adore God for His goodness and return thanks."

David didn't stop at saying God is good. He listed some of the ways in which He is good to His people. In a way, it's a "benefits package" for those who love and follow God.

1) He pardons our iniquities.
2) He heals all our diseases.
3) He redeems our lives from the pit.
4) He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion.
4) He satisfies our years with good things
5) He renews our youth like the eagle.
6) He performs righteous deeds and judgments for those who are oppressed.
7) He lets us know about His righteous deeds.
8) He is compassionate and gracious.
9) He is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
10) He is not always angry.
11) He does not always discipline us. 
12) He does not give us what we deserve.
13) He has removed our sins so far away from us that we can never find them again. 
14) He pours out lovingkindness on us.
15) He understands how frail and fragile we are.
16) His lovingkindness never ends.
17) He is sovereign over everything and yet He cares about us.

The word translated as "lovingkindness" implies the idea of "leaning toward" and is also translated as goodness, kindness, mercy, and faithfulness. 

Picture this in your mind's eye for a moment: God leans toward us with the intent of being good, kind, merciful, faithful to us. He deals with our sin, but not the way we deserve. 

Instead of unrelenting anger and discipline, He offers forgiveness, healing, compassion, defense, redemption, understanding, love, mercy. 

We trade sorrow for joy, pain for healing, turmoil for peace, despair for hope. It's a great deal, and far better than anything the world offers. All He asks in return is repentance followed by obedience. 



Today, we'll make the transition from one holiday to the next and begin to get ready for the new year. As we do, let's ponder the Benefits Package God has provided for us and embrace the relationship with Him that makes it possible. 

"Bless the Lord, O my soul; 
And all that is within me bless His holy name.
Psalm 103:1 nasb
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: Searching for the Homeless and Finding the Hungry Instead

As you consider your year-end giving, please consider including support for this ministry, which is totally dependent upon the support of those who partner with us. We need your prayers, your hands to help, and your financial gifts to continue.

Here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802

#Christian 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Searching for the Homeless and Finding the Hungry Instead



On Christmas morning, I wrote about A Heart That Gives. "Take a plate of food to a shut-in," I suggested. As I wrote, I prayed about how I could give to those in need on Christmas. "Lord, give me a hungry person to feed today."

Filled with determination, I left Ryan and his girlfriend, Hannah, in the kitchen and headed out to take the dogs for a walk and to search for someone with an empty tummy. Preferably someone homeless.

As I walked out of Ryan's building, I overheard the concierge talking with someone about ordering takeout. 

"I didn't know everything would be closed," she said.

I pondered that statement all during our walk. Oddly enough, I couldn't find a single homeless person on my path. When I returned to the building, I stopped at the desk to visit a minute.

"What are you doing for lunch?"

"I'm eating at my mama's when I get off."

"What about lunch?"

She shrugged. "Nothing's open. I have a piece of fruit."

"You're gonna be here for hours. Aren't you hungry?"

"I'm starving."

"Lord, she's not homeless," I silently prayed. Instantly, the still, small voice said, "No, but she's hungry."

I'd gone in search of a hungry person and found one, right inside the doors of Ryan's building. "Be right back," I assured her and hurried to the elevator.

"Hey,  Ryan. Do you mind if I take a plate of food to the concierge? She's hungry and doesn't have anything to eat."

"Nothing's cooked yet. Will leftovers be okay?" We loaded a plate and I headed downstairs to deliver my offering. "I'm bringing this in the name of Jesus," I told the concierge. 

She started to cry. I joined her. She's a believer and had asked God to send her something to eat.

By that time, the security guard had joined her at the desk. He didn't have anything to eat, either. I headed back upstairs, still wiping tears.

"I need another plate. The security guard is hungry, too."

Ryan and Hannah loaded up another plate. "We're going with you. You shouldn't get all the fun."

"This is in the name of Jesus, too," I told the security guard. Hugs all around. Laughter. More happy tears. One more hug for the road.

As we headed back upstairs, the concierge called after me. "Thank you, Mama. Love you." 

"Love you, too," I called back, and I meant it.

That's what happens when you become the hands and feet of Jesus. You serve as He served and love as He loved. It's beautiful.

Later that evening, Hannah voiced what I'd been thinking. "This has been the best Christmas ever."

She was right.

"The Lord Jesus Himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35 niv

Today, ask God to put someone in your path who needs what you can give, then ,offer it in the name of Jesus, even if they don't look like you expect. You might be surprised by the joy and blessings you receive in return.
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In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Belated Christmas Letter

As you consider your year-end giving, please consider including support for this ministry, which is totally dependent upon the support of those who partner with us. We need your prayers, your hands to help, and your financial gifts to continue.

Here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802


#give #Jesus






Monday, December 26, 2016

The 2016 Belated Christmas Letter


I started a new tradition last year. 

The day after Christmas, I finally stopped long enough to write a belated Christmas letter. This year, I'm continuing the tradition with another after-Christmas letter.


This past year has been filled with change, most of it joyful. 


Ryan celebrated his one-year anniversary at his dream job, as software developer for Square, Atlanta. He bought his first home, a skyscraper condo in downtown Atlanta. He has a wonderful girlfriend, Hannah. He adopted a new dog, Bento, and has experienced the joys (and difficulties) of owning an energetic puppy. 


He's become an adult, and it's a wondrous sight to behold.

Sam (my neighbor) celebrated the first anniversary of his wife's death by deciding that I didn't have to cook all his meals anymore. With some help, he's recently started cooking for himself. All the cooking was quite an adjustment, but we've made it through. His new independence has been good for both of us.


I joined a new church (Hope Church) and found a new family. 


I don't love my "old" church any less, but Hope is closer to my home and it's gluten-free. And God led me there.


I've begun to call myself a writer. No qualifications. No shame. It's what I do. It's how I process life. 


I finished a complete rewrite on my first novel this year and sent it back to the editor for line edits. I've already received beautiful, encouraging feedback on the changes and will start preparing a proposal this week. (Hoping 2017 will be the year it makes it into print.)


I've written more non-fiction than I thought possible, and published my first online, digital Bible study, an in-depth look at Hosea. The in-your-place, at-your-pace format was well received, and I've already started writing a new study on James.


I've begun to call myself a retired physician.

I didn't go back to work as a physician, despite so many people asking me to reconsider. 

I became a missionary. 

To my utter surprise, fifty years after I first prayed with Isaiah, "Here am I, Lord. Send me," I became a missionary. I was already on mission, as anyone who knows me well already recognized, but I became an "official" missionary with Global Outreach International. 

As Director of Intercessory Prayer and Outreach, I've done more outreach and prayed more prayers than I thought possible. I've spoken dozens of times, to groups of all ages. 


My mama said I wouldn't be able to fit all the funerals in, and she was right. 

Once again, I attended more visitations and funerals than I dreamed possible, and missed almost as many. 


Friends and family have been more important than ever.

I've taken time to enjoy lunch outings with friends on a semi-regular basis. I joined a new supper club. I've spent more time connecting with family.


I've seen the hand of God at work in my life, in my heart, in my circumstances, and it's been a wondrous thing.

I've enjoyed good health, ignored the usual admonitions to slow down and stop juggling so many things, and finally recognized that God made me this way. I prefer it. It's tedium that saps my strength, not doing multiple things I love. 

There've been hard times and a few times when I wasn't sure I would make it through, but I did. Looking back, I've grown and learned from every hard time. 


I wish I'd done a few things differently, but I wouldn't really change a thing. (well, not much)


It's been a great year and I've seen the hand of God so many times that I've been in awe of His mercy and grace. 


None of the good things I've experienced were of my own making. They came straight from God, because every good and perfect gift comes from above. 


2017 is lurking just around the corner. In less than a week, we'll start working our way through another year. 


My prayer, for you as well as for myself, is that we do what Jesus said to do. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. If we do, everything else will fall into place.



"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be added to you." 
Matthew 6:33 nasb

Today, take a few minutes to look back over your own year. What were your joys? Your sorrows? Your victories? How was God at work? 


Give your life an "annual review" so that you can decide what to keep and what to let go of in the coming year. Let's live with intention in 2017 and glorify God with the life we choose.

______________
As you consider your year-end giving, please consider including support for this ministry, which is totally dependent upon the support of those who partner with us. We need your prayers, your hands to help, and your financial gifts to continue.

Here's the link to give: Global Outreach Acct 4841 If you'd rather use a check or money order, make it out to Global Outreach. Remember to put "Account 4841" on the "for" line. Mail it to: Global Outreach, PO Box 1, Tupelo MS 38802


In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: A Heart that Gives
#Jesus

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: A Heart that Gives


Merry Christmas from Atlanta! 

May the Natal Christ be present in every gathering, in every quiet moment, and in the deepest, most painful places in your heart. 

Christ has come!

We celebrate Christmas (Christ's birth) because of the gift God gave to us. I don't want to forget that in the midst of family celebrations, gifts, and food.

This morning, though, I wondered about what I'd written last year, and found these words:

As we celebrate today, thousands of people in our area are still reeling from the catastrophic tornado less than forty-eight hours ago. The loss of property, catastrophic in its own right, is nothing compared to the loss of life and limb. Not everyone is celebrating the way I will today, with a special meal eaten with those I love. 

Not everyone is eating in the place they most love to be.

Wednesday, emergency personnel, many who are volunteers, went door to door, checking to be sure people were safe. It was a horrible kind of head count. Who made it through? Who didn't? At least one of those rescue workers lost his home, yet he was there, doing his job. 

For thousands of people across the South, it was a long, hard night.

As the WTVA newscaster reported on the damage in Holly Springs, there was a catch in her voice. "I live in Holly Springs," she said. Her heart was breaking for her town, but she stayed in place. Warning others. Keeping people safe.

There are many people who went above and beyond. We'll hear their stories over the next few days and we'll take heart in the kindness of strangers, the mercies shown in the midst of the tragedy. You and I can be part of the recovery effort. We can be one of the ones who goes above and beyond. 

We can be the strangers who show kindness to those in desperate trouble.

Hope Reigns (a Tupelo-based charitable organization) strives to "show the Love of Jesus Christ to disaster victims 48-72 hours after a disaster strikes anywhere in the contiguous 48 states." (I've copied directly from their website to ensure my accuracy.)

"The means to meeting this goal will be through clearing debris, tarping roofs, gutting water damaged homes and salvaging personal property. These are the most basic immediate actions necessary to preserve property and livelihood. In so doing, Hope Reigns volunteers seek to build bonds with home owners, community leaders and other disaster relief organizations for immediate relief and in hope of laying a foundation for future disaster-recovery efforts.

If you are interested in volunteering, please email hopereigns@eightdaysofhope.comThere will be lots of presents given and received today, but one of the best gifts you can give is a helping hand to one in need. Why not join with us in helping our neighbors recover from the disaster they've experienced?

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." Matthew 25:40 nasb 

A lot has changed in a year.

I'm now a peer-to-peer funded missionary with Global Outreach and Eight Days of Hope is a partner with Global Outreach, as well. We're family, in a deeper way than before. 

Many of the homes in Holly Springs have been repaired or rebuilt. Many people have begun to heal from the losses they sustained. 

But not all.

This year, like every year, there are many hurting, lonely people who wonder if the Christ child in the manger came for them.

He did, and it's our job, body of Christ, to remind them of that great truth.

In the midst of our celebrations, let's make an effort to do just that today. Make a call to a lonely shut-in to say Merry Christmas. Take a plate of food to a shut-in. Invite a single person to join in your celebration. Help serve a meal at a local food pantry or the Salvation Army. 

If you're willing, there are plenty of places to serve this afternoon, and there's no more fun act of service than that done with those you love. 

This day, let's celebrate the birth of Christ and, as we do, let's live out the truth that He came for the poor, the downtrodden, and the captives, including us.

With wishes for a Merry Christmas and deep gratitude for your support,

Leanna 
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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link: The One on Whom God's Favor Rests

Christmas, 8DOH