Happy anniversary to us! This week marks two years since the first post on this blog, and it has been such a wonderful experience. Thank you so much for spending time here with me, thinking about the goodness and faithfulness of God. I look forward to many more encouraging visits together.
As I write this, my husband and I along with many hundreds of our friends are in the throes of what we all affectionately call "Welcome Month" on the university campuses of America. This is the season when all of the students return to campus and when the freshmen land for the first time. Though this year is certainly unique in so many ways, it is still a wonderful time of fun and activity and of making new friends on purpose for Jesus.
I know that we can all see many awful and concerning things in the news lately, and there certainly are so many dark things happening, but I want to tell you that there is so much hope yet! The light of Christ shines brightly in the darkness, and many young people are hungry for real love and truth. In honor of the great work of God that is beginning in so many young hearts and lives on campuses all over the country, following is an excerpt from my book Kingdom Minded that I hope will encourage and inspire you today...
March 2019 - Huntsville, TX
Today is actually my birthday, and I am now forty-seven years old. Thirty years ago, I was a high school senior, finishing up that last semester and preparing to start a new chapter of life in college. I had no idea the wonderful journey that God was taking me on, or how radically my life and viewpoint were going to shift over the months after I arrived at university.
It has been the blessing and honor of my life to be able to serve Jesus alongside my husband for all these years on a college campus. The things that are in this book are things we have learned firsthand as we began to walk with Jesus ourselves, and things that have been refined as we have been priveleged to help so many others while they were students here.
This has proven to be a special place; many hundreds of people who were a part of this group are now in ministry and missions positions all over the world, and many thousands more are serving Jesus faithfully in the marketplace. Thirty years of data are in: practicing spiritual disciplines helps us walk with God for the long-haul and helps us be transformed into the image of Jesus. I could tell you story after story of people that I first met when they were eighteen years old and rather selfish, who are now some of the most godly people serving Jesus faithfully and fruitfully in some of the most challenging situations you can imagine.
There have been so many young men who came here angry and broken after being abandoned at a young age by their fathers. A student befriended them and brought them into the fellowship, and their hearts were changed by the love of God. They were set free from years of bitterness and hatred, and learned to apply the same things we have just been through in this book. They learned how to have a real devotional life, and real brothers, and real responsibility, and began to be transformed day by day. Now so many of them are the best husbands and fathers any family could ask for. Their own children will never know the sting and devastation of abandonment, just the care of a loving father.
I can think of face after face of young men and women who struggled with life-gripping substance or pornography abuse, and who were set free by the power of God. They learned to make drastic choices and changes in their lives, choosing to fill their minds, bodies and spirits with only healthy things. So many learned to walk in solid new habits of temperence and self-control, and have never looked back at their old life. Their families are healthy and free from the chaos such addictions bring into a home.
More people than you would believe have overcome the shame and confusion resulting from sexual abuse in their childhoods. Jesus set them free and healed their hearts, and these young people learned to walk in health, with their sexuality surrendered to God. Hundreds of men and women who were harmed by abuse that should never happen to any child are now married with children of their own. The terrible cycle of abuse has been broken and their children will grow up safe from harm.
Angry people have become kind and hopeful; selfish people have become generous and giving; destructive people have become full of life and encouragement. People who never gave a thought for anyone other than themselves are now living lives of service that help others all over the world also know the great love of God. Knowing Jesus and surrendering our hearts and wills to Him changes everything, and walking in discipline with Him helps us to become more like Him every day.
Sadly, I have also seen so many people come close and then walk away. They came right up to the line, but for whatever reason did not want to trust God enough to cross over and really walk with Him. I hope that one day they have another opportunity to meet God and know Him.
There is no distinction in the sight of God between these two kinds of people - God made them all and deeply loves each one. It is not that some people are more favored and special to Him, and therefore have an easier time of walking with God their whole life. No, each of us has a choice and we are responsible for the life and time we are given. God has done His great work, and His free gift of salvation is available to each of us. Now it is up to us: His hand is extended, will we choose to walk with Him into the abundant life He created us to live?
I pray that this book has been an encouragement and blessing to you, no matter whether you are just meeting Jesus or have been walking with Him for many years. I hope that you have been challenged to learn and grow in spiritual discipline, and to keep learning and growing all your days. You were created by God for this very time and place, and there are people all around you who can be greatly impacted by your walk with Him. There are people that you could reach and disciple that might be the very ones to open a heart, city or nation that has been previously closed off to God.
Let the great love of God fill you and shape you and change you. Let everything He is doing in your heart and life spill out and impact your family, your friends and your neighbors. No matter what your starting point, I encourage you to start seeking the Lord with all of your strength. Let the word of God wash your mind and the hope of God encourage your heart. In every way, may the Lord bless you and keep you, all the days of your life.
Would you like to learn more about walking with God in a life-changing relationship? Order your copy of Kingdom Minded today - we just went into the second printing of the book!
Against all odds, Back to School time has come! As we all continue to pray for God's help and healing through this strange virus, we also prepare for a great season of opportunity. All across the nation - and truly around the world - university students are heading back to campus over the next few weeks. The darkness is indeed great at most universities, and too many wicked snares await young minds and hearts.
However, there are also Christian ministers, missionaries and students on many of these campuses, ready to share the truth, love and power of the Good News of Jesus with as many students and faculty members as they can. Please pray for these brave men and women, that God would protect them and give them great courage as they bring the light of Christ into the darkness.
In honor of our campus ministers and missionaries, following is an essay that Eli and I wrote several years ago for a missions journal. Throughout the ages, the question has always been, why bother trying to help and rescue people living in darkness? Duty or pity alone cannot sustain anyone for very long. The heart for purposefully going to the darkest, hardest places to share God's love can be found in Luke 19:10...
For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.
Several years ago, our family attended a conference on a university campus. One afternoon our three year old went missing from the student center where we had been working. As it became apparent that our little girl was lost, my heart sank and with each passing moment I began to feel more and more nauseous and anxious. Words cannot describe the depth of anguish and despair we felt that day. With the help of university police, we frantically searched all four floors of that building, eventually spilling out into the parking lot and covering the four city blocks of the campus. She was completely lost.
In Luke chapter 15, we read Jesus’ three parables about lost things – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons. Contextually, however, the emphases lay not on the things which were lost, but rather on those to whom the lost things belonged – the shepherd, the woman, the father. The third parable is frequently called the Parable of the Prodigal Son – but as G. Campbell Morgan suggested, perhaps a better name would be the Parable of the Father’s Heart, for in this story we see the broken heart of God revealed. This father was actively watching, waiting and yearning to be reunited with his lost child. That is exactly the way God feels about every one of His children who are lost and separated from Him.
To quote G. Campbell Morgan, “It is well now to remind ourselves that when we speak of a lost man or woman, the final emphasis in our thinking should not be on the lost person, but on the one who has lost that person. When we speak of a man being lost, do we think most about his suffering, or of the suffering of God?” When the devil has kidnapped a child of God, it is God who hurts the deepest, who suffers most. His heart is broken as He can foresee the inevitable consequence of lost relationship - eternal separation. When I remember the way we felt about our one lost child, I cannot begin to imagine the Father’s exponential pain over the multitude of His lost children from every corner of the earth. When our daughter was lost, I wanted everyone, everywhere to drop what they were doing and help us find her. It was inconceivable to me that anyone, especially those I loved most, would be able to rest until she was safely found.
In 2 Samuel 23, we read about three of David’s Mighty Men who heard a sigh from their king’s lips - his simple longing for a drink of water from the well near the gate at Bethlehem. Risking their own lives, they crossed enemy lines in the dark of the night and retrieved the drink of water for their king. It is clear that these three men were close enough to their king, in proximity but more importantly in relational intimacy, to hear the longing of his heart. They were never given a command. Their king’s longing became their immediate, voluntary and dangerous mission.
After the longest hour and twenty minutes of my life - in which every passing minute felt like an eternity - we found our daughter. The moment I saw her, I had an instant understanding of the joy in heaven that erupts when a lost person is reunited with the Father. I cried out with happiness and could not stop hugging her. The intensity of the darkness which had accompanied her loss was matched only by the elation I felt when I held her in my arms again.
Today as you pray, rather than pouring out your heart to God, ask Him to pour His heart to you. Our King is a wonderful and loving Father who suffers deeply at the loss of His children. If we love Him, we will listen. Eventually we will feel His broken heart. If we love Him we will, like the mighty men of old, make His longing our mission no matter what the risk. What is the cry of God’s heart? He is weeping over His lost children; watching, waiting and yearning for them to come home.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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