Tag Archives: service

Do: Shine!

“. . . in which you shine . . . like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15).

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

star nightMy new Flourishing Faith Bible study Shine Your Light explores service, compassion, justice, action . . . the doing side of our faith. Take time to journey through this excerpt as we wrap up our discussion on doing.

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 “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). Faith—believing in the good news—is intricately interconnected with action. Just as faith demonstrates itself in works, works proclaim our faith to the world. Our actions, demeanor, words, character, and way of life declare a message!

. . .  One powerful theme interwoven throughout the book of James is that what we believe ought to show itself in what we do and how we act:

• We’re to truly listen to God’s Word and respond by doing what it says (1:22-25)

• As believers in our compassionate, just, and merciful God, we’re to live the good news by caring for the poor, vulnerable, and overlooked (1:27; 2:1-13).

• Living the gospel means loving our neighbors as ourselves—and that includes seemingly “unimportant” people (2:1-13).

• Belief in the gospel demonstrates itself in our actions (2:14-26).

• Our actions and demeanor reveal that we are aligned with a new way of thinking as we live by values “from above” (3:13, 17-18).

• When God leads us to do good, it’s imperative that we respond (4:17).

• Materialism and injustice toward the poor are absolutely contrary to the gospel (5:1-6).

• Intimacy with God through prayer empowers a gospel-transformed life (5:13-20).

. . . What can you do today to proclaim the gospel through action? Continue reading


Do: Cultivate Character

As God’s grace-loved masterpieces, one of the key things we’re called to do is live out a character that reflects his. We’re invited to live a life of obedience that embodies God-honoring virtues. (Check out these passages for a quick sampling of Scripture’s invitation to cultivate Christlike character: Romans 12:9-18; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:5-7.)  Peter urges us to “make every effort” (v. 5) in our growth. We have a critical part to play in choosing to grow, in refining our character, in fostering habits that shape and mold our thoughts and attitudes.

colorful fruitBut . . .

. . . it’s not all on us. It’s not all about our own strength or efforts. We find power for this new way of living through the Spirit of God within us! As we grow in intimacy with God and reliance upon his power and leading in our lives, we are changed. Our lives produce fruit:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

As I wrote in the devotional study Cultivate Your Character, “Don’t let over-familiarity with the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ cause you to take them less seriously than you should. These traits aren’t cutesy, nice little ideas Continue reading

Do: Workmanship

fall leaf

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV).

You are saved by the rich grace of God. No matter what you’ve done in your life, his grace is enough.  No A-pluses, no good-enoughs, no extra credit required. You don’t need to dig yourself out of your hole or pick yourself up by your bootstraps or overcome your failings or earn a golden ticket because it’s not about doing good works to get God’s approval. This grace and faith and salvation miracle? It’s all God’s.

 But . . .

. . . here is where we so often stop. We’re fantastic at quoting (and arguing about!) Ephesians 2:8-9 . . . and we stop there where Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, didn’t stop. God had more to say about this grace and faith and salvation miracle!

Let’s consider again how he brings this idea of grace and salvation to a climactic, purpose-full conclusion:  Continue reading

Loaded with Love

What a fabulous weekend I had serving as the speaker at Faith Church‘s women’s retreat this weekend!

This month, November, we’re diving into the idea of “doing” after a month-long reflection in October on “being.” However, since I’ve been away over the weekend (and, prior to that, was busy preparing for the retreat), we’ll start our discussion of doing with revisiting a blog post I wrote a few years ago: a short & sweet reflection on the wisdom Mother Teresa can bring to our “doing.”

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I deeply admire Mother Teresa.  I have a book that compiles many of her powerful, written words (called A Simple Path) and in getting to know her through these words, I cannot help but be convicted and inspired by her devoted obedience to Christ — whom she deeply loved and proclaimed to be Lord (Romans 10:9) — and by her compelling life of service to the poor, sick, and lowly.

blog.love heartIn  A Simple Path, Mother Teresa’s words speak this truth into my life: “[T]his is God’s wish for us — to serve through love in action, and to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to act when called.”

The second part of this statement is so crucial. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the needs of the world. What issues can we address? Who can we serve and how, when so many need so much? But the Holy Spirit will guide us. If we are attentive to the Spirit, our task is to obey when he leads us. We are called to no more than that . . . and certainly to no less.

I also find inspiration in the words that the Missionaries of Charity have on a poster in the headquarters: “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into the doing.”

Teach us to load our service with love, Lord. To put deep, overflowing love into the task of service your Spirit has before us — whatever it may be.

You . . . Shining

I return again and again to this passage – for conviction, for inspiration, for realignment, for truth. God’s people were worshipping him through fasting and rituals, but God asked for something deeper . . . for something harder.

light flower“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to cloth them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear . . . If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land” (Isaiah 58:6-11).

God invites YOU to shine your light. To shine your light through good-news actions of mercy, through compassion, through justice. To shine your light through good-news words of truth, of grace, of the Cross, of the empty tomb, of freedom. The light of the world lives within you . . . and shines through you.

ShineYourLight CVR-1Thank you for joining me this month in our discussion of justice! If you want to explore this topic further, check out my new Flourishing Faith Bible study Shine Your Light. Along with justice, it digs into scriptural themes like service, evangelism, mercy, and compassion.

Next month, we’ll look at a theme close to my heart: Cherish Your Family.


What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word discipline? As a mom of three, I think of child-tears, frustration, time-outs (or worse), and me feeling frazzled and worn out. Discipline, if we’re honest, is not fun. Rewarding in the long run? Sure. But not exactly a word with a positive connotation.

So when I talk about spiritual disciplines? Well, the danger for you and for me is that we can bring this somewhat negative connotation into the conversation. But Scripture uses several words that are translated at “discipline.” One means to chastise, correct, or instruct (see Hebrews 12:6-7). But here’s some good news: God’s Word uses entirely different words to talk about discipline in terms of our spiritual formation. Consider this excerpt from my book, The Busy Mom’s Guide to Spiritual Survival:

trainersAs we look at the spiritual disciplines, we’re instead aiming for the concepts of gumnazo and askeo. Gumnazo—from which we derive the English word gymnasium—means discipline in the sense of athletic exercise and training. We’re talking about a spiritual sweat here: regular “workouts” that keep our faith in shape. This is the word Paul uses when he urges Timothy, “[T]rain yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, emphasis added). This is the same connotation the writer of Hebrews intends when he prods his readers by saying, “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teachings about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:13-14, emphasis added).

Askeo means the discipline of a master craftsman who employs skill, persistent determination, and great effort to turn raw material into a piece of art. Continue reading

Meet My Friend Connie Jakab

I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Connie Jakab. Her journey of re-envisioning God’s vision for her life is just plain awesome — I love the place God has led her to. Connie is the author of a new book called Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives. Keep on reading for some challenging, inspiring, just-plain-awesome stuff . . . 

Welcome, Connie! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

Hey there! My name is Connie and I live in Calgary, Alberta—yes that’s Canada. I have a hubby of 13 years and two precious boys; ages 6 and 2. I live off of coffee because I still get no sleep, and besides writing I’m a hip-hop dancer living out God’s mission in Calgary’s arts community.

What has God been teaching you lately about his vision for your life?

That’s a loaded question! I was in full-time pastoral ministry for ten years. I’ve been on a seven-year journey since that, for awhile, involved losing a sense of God’s purpose for my life. I struggled with the idea of “calling”. Wasn’t I “called” to the ministry? I felt like I had somehow blown it. I had just moved to Calgary with our newborn and found myself terribly lonely and depressed. I felt like my worth was taken and any gifting would be limited to breastfeeding. My husband’s salary increased so I started to find purpose in the mall: shopping, facials—anything that would get me out of my depressing state. I entered the new world of a moms Bible study where we would sit around and talk about our hard life as a mother, the lack of sex, our plans for a girls trip to Vegas, our newest shopping excursion . . . and maybe pick up the Bible on the occasion to study. This “new purpose” got old really fast. Was this all there was to life? I was desperate to rebel against it and create a new ideal—I just didn’t know how if it didn’t look like full-time ministry. God had to break down my mindset so a new one could form. Perhaps being used by God didn’t have to look “big”? Maybe the small things could matter? Perhaps intentionally finding needs and meeting them WITH my kids in tow was a possibility?

As you look back over your life so far, what have been some key moments when God has led you in new directions or helped you see a fresh vision for your life?

Moving to a new city and becoming a mother were key moments in my life when God stripped me of all I knew from before to give me a new mindset of living missionally in simple things. He gave me a new perspective that I didn’t have to “go big,” I could just serve people in simple, every day matters and teach my kids to do the same. I started to see my possessions as his to use to bless people, rather than for me to hoard. (Disclaimer: This is an ongoing process!) Continue reading

Meet My Friend Margot Starbuck

I’m excited to introduce you to Margot Starbuck, a writer whose most recent book Small Things with Great Love explores the exciting, adventurous, and surprising ways God can use us to share his love with others. She’s got some great ideas and inspiration to share. Keep on reading . . . 

Margot, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself? 

Hi friends!  I’m a communicator, living with my fam—husband and 3 kiddos—in Durham, North Carolina.  In my free time I do exactly what I do in my work time: write.  It really makes me that happy.  I also like to paint & walk in the sunshine.

This month we’re looking at how “surprise” factors into our faith. When is a time recently when you’ve been surprised or delighted by God? Can you describe your experience?

Well . . . on most days I do not receive personal messages from the Almighty.  (I’m Presbyterian.)  BUT, about 7 or 8 years ago I heard God speaking directly to my hurting heart, saying, “I am for you.” It really was quite a pivotal moment for me.  Since then, the message has grown to, “I am the One who is with you and for you.”  Honestly, the clarity took me by surprise.  They are the words I’m convinced that God is speaking not just to me, but to every heart.

I love your book Small Things with Great Love — and I especially appreciate the subtitle, Adventures in Loving Your Neighbor. Often — to be honest — serving others doesn’t seem like an “adventure” to me. I think it seems more like something important, something that is a bit of a duty (in a good way),  something a bit scary and intimidating, and something that can be difficult to work into my everyday life. But your book looks at service from an entirely different angle. Why do you describe it as an adventure? 

I guess I’m convinced that we have been invited to partner with Jesus in the building of the new kingdom. As we follow Jesus, I mean really follow him into the places he goes, we find ourselves in unlikely places among unlikely people. Just about every day I have the opportunity to either chill in my comfort zone or to embrace the adventure of trailing after that Jesus.  The latter is life that really is life.

When and how did you begin to see service as an adventure?

Hmmm . . . I guess that my first year at Westmont College I saw peers who were living differently because they knew Christ.  They were befriending homeless folks in Santa Barbara. They were serving alongside pastors and congregations in Mexico. They were fighting apartheid in South Africa. Young, energetic, I knew that following Jesus was meant to transform me and others.

This “adventure” mindset toward service suddenly opens up all sorts of surprising opportunities to serve and love others! Can you share some of the more “surprising” avenues of service you’ve come across? 

Some of my favorites . . . 

• my friend Hugh, who hangs out with homeless folks in Raleigh, NC

• a guy I met on an airplane who frequents thrift stores with his wife in order to meet, and bless, single mamas

• a beauty salon ministry in Thailand to prostitutes

• a local mom with a young baby who offers to take a recent Iraqi immigrant to the clinic

• my friends at Rutba House, in Durham, who open their dinner table to anyone who is hungry

No one can tell me that the Jesus-life is not an adventure!

How can we best see the surprising, adventurous opportunities to serve that God puts in our lives?

I’m convinced that when we ask God to open our eyes to a world in need, God DELIGHTS in doing it!

A few tips:

  1. Make it simple—loving your neighbor can be as easy as learning the name of the woman who rings up your groceries each week
  2. Be creative—if you spend all your time on the soccer field, or in a minivan, or at an office, ask God to show you new ways to bless folks there
  3. Be courageous—quite frankly, you can expect to be a little uncomfortable.  It’s a good sign.
  4. Minister in community—there’s no need to be a Lone Ranger.  Invite a new acquaintance to walk, or share coffee, with you and a friend.

Most important: God doesn’t ask you to do everything, just the next thing!  This week, take one step, with Jesus, into the world he loves.

Thank you so much, Margot! Friends, be sure to pop on by Margot’s web site to learn more about her books and her ministry.

Love yourself? Deny yourself?

Kyria.com just posted a short article I wrote exploring service and the paradox of self-denial and self-care in the Christian life. If you’d like, you can check it out by clicking on the article title: “Spiritual Superhero or Stressed-Out Serve-aholic?”

(I’d love it if you’d add a comment to the Kyria site sharing your own thoughts!)


15-Minute Formation: A Dangerous Prayer

How can you practice hospitality this month?

I could, of course, suggest that you make an amazing dinner and invite friends over.

Or I could suggest that you ready the guest room with pillow-top mints, fresh flowers, and hotel-like atmosphere.

But I’d rather suggest something much more simple . . . and dangerous.

My dangerous suggestion: pray.

Dare to invite God to give you an opportunity, today, to show hospitality. In an article in MOMSense, Jane Jarrell wrote: “Hospitality provides a shelter for the soul, a healing for the spirit. Ultimately this is what we offer when we open our home in the true spirit of love or when we offer our time, gifts or talents outside of our home to reach others.”

So your opportunity to show hospitality might mean you’re sharing hospitable words or a listening ear. It might be through a shared latte, an arm around a shoulder, a welcoming smile. It might be through a simple act of minsitry that’s far from your home — or it may in fact mean inviting someone over for a meal.

I recently read an interview with a woman who prayed this way, each day, for 40-days. Everyday she discovered a God-given opportunity to be hospitable. These opportunities stretched her, grew her, and drew her ever closer to God. What an amazing journey!

Ask God to open your eyes to the opportunity, big or small. Pray each day this week . . . your life will be changed!