Adults

Letting Go

“The next ten years, at least,” was always my answer when people asked me how long I wanted to live in the Middle East. Following the greats before me like Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, I admired the kind of faith and sacrifice they possessed.

My whole life geared toward that moment of stepping on the plane and beginning this adventure I had prayed for, researched, and anticipated.

In that moment, I thought that was the final surrender, to leave behind my family, my friends, my comforts, and my ability to communicate within my culture. I really did think I had reached my one big free fall and everything after was going to be a continuum based off of that jump.

Little did I know the true surrender would happen 2 years later, when God told me my one-way-ticket plan was not His and it was time to go back.

What?

Did I hear this all wrong?

Big Potential from a Simple Invitation

If you’ve grown up in a family that regularly attended church, that’s amazing. It’s also not the norm for many children across America.

I live in the Bible Belt of the South, where it’s easy to assume that everyone goes to church and knows about Jesus. However, this is so not true!

I have been babysitting for a sweet family for about a year. The more I babysat, the more I realized that I didn’t see any biblical-based items around the house—no children’s books with Bible stories, no cross decorations, and no Noah’s ark toy sets.

However, one day in December, I noticed a candy cane with a piece of paper tied to it. The paper explained how the candy cane represented the shepherd’s staff from the Christmas story, and it also looked like the letter “J” for Jesus.

“Where did you get this?” I asked one of the children.

“From the after school Bible club,” he replied. “I go once a week.”

Let Go and Let God

Recently, we learned we needed to take our 15-month-old son to an ear specialist. He’s had nonstop double ear infections for the past several months, and after multiple rounds of antibiotics, it’s time to think about next steps in his treatment. Some of our options include placing tubes in his ears or removing certain parts of his ears, nose, and throat in order to prevent infection. Though the process is painful and unpleasant, it will be a necessary procedure to protect his body from a hostile takeover from toxic organisms.

Pack Your Shoe Box before Your Beach Bag

School is out and summer has officially arrived!

It’s the time for sleeping in, diving in, sun-scorched days at the ball field, and long trips in the family minivan. So gear up, and get ready to head out!

But wait! Before building that sand castle, what about building God’s kingdom? Rather than rushing to pack your beach bag, why not first pack a shoe box?

Each year, Samaritan’s Purse sponsors Operation Christmas Child, a project that collects gift-filled shoe boxes for children in need. Download a promotional video or create your own to share with your group or church.

God-Pleasing Sacrifice

“Sacrifice” is not a word frequently heard in our postmodern culture.

In a society that strives for more, bigger, and better, the idea of sacrificing anything is almost unthinkable. However, the concept of sacrifice may be widely misunderstood, even for Christians.

We recall the Old Testament stories of sacrifice involving the slaughter of animals for the redemption of sin. And we accept that Jesus became the Lamb slaughtered—sacrificed—for our personal sin so that we have been redeemed by His blood shed on the cross.

Under the New Covenant—in other words, after Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as a substitute for our sin offering—we are told to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1). Our bodies—our entire lives—are to be living sacrifices instead of dead sacrifices. What we have to offer as worship is not a dead substitution but, instead, a life that is “holy and pleasing to God.”

Surrender Reaps Eternal Results

In December 2000, Jeff and Barbara Singerman and their family were held at gunpoint in their Benin home; death seemed certain.

Instead the robbers left in the Singermans’ truck that was purchased with funds from the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

“On that very day, we were being featured in the Week of Prayer for International Missions,” Barbara Singerman said. “That incident generated greater boldness in our lives . . . and made us more willing to preach Christ to the death.”

She knows surrender to Jesus stretches a believer, fostering greater dependence upon Him.

After 24 years of sharing Jesus with and loving the people of Benin, God moved the Singermans to Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Leaving the Beninese “was one of the most painful experiences of our lives,” Barbara Singerman said. “But God calls us to obey, even when obedience is excruciatingly painful.”

Surrender Brings Blessings Multiplied

Surrendering to Jesus may require giving up something extremely important to do the unexpected.

Brenna Stull experienced that when she and her husband, Chris, felt God prompting them to relocate to plant Wellspring Church in Goodyear, Arizona.

Leaving McKinney, Texas, meant uprooting—in particular—one of their teenagers who had influence and promising opportunities at his high school.

“My thought was, ‘How could we do this to Derek—moving right before his senior year?’” Brenna Stull recalled.

The next day, she heard in a sermon that whatever a person is unwilling to lay down to obey Christ has become an idol.

“My heart was pierced,” she said. “I confessed . . . and surrendered myself to His will.”

The day before school started in August 2013, the couple and their 5 children arrived in the Litchfield Park/Goodyear area west of Phoenix. The Phoenix metropolitan area is home to nearly 5.4 million people. Only 12.6% affiliates with an evangelical congregation; 62% has no religious association.

An Unexpected Platform

Microphone on stage

Recently, while walking through a subway station, I was approached by a stranger. I assumed he was a lost tourist, but he was a photographer taking photos of New Yorkers for a blog. I quickly realized he writes for a very popular photo blog that has millions of followers. He asked if he could take my photo and share my story. I’d never thought much about what I would say if approached by this guy (as I’m a big fan of his work), but here I was standing there with a great opportunity to share my story.

I said yes, and his first question was something along the lines of “What are you most passionate about?” So I started talking about Christ, the gospel, and church planting. I stammered through several things and really don’t remember all of what I said. I honestly didn’t say anything profound; I just rambled on about my life and the things I do.

Selflessness Continues!

The cards keep coming in. Expressions of love and sympathy flood the post, as selflessness continues to console and bless. The heartfelt sentiments, the verses of prayer —each message is another reminder of God’s never-ending faithfulness!

There, in the midst of the stacks, are sweet, comforting words from friends like Donna Kirby— each among numerous, other souls. Hands that have lovingly composed words of sympathy, and words arriving at just the right time.

Selfless acts of love. A first-class stamp representing the heart of God reaching outward to serve a grieving daughter and her family.

Thank you, friends, for reflecting our Father’s love. Thank you for pausing to sacrifice your time, and for taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Your selfless acts of love will never be forgotten.

 

Joanie Ballard will be forever grateful for her earthly father’s legacy of selfless living! 

 

 

 

 

Serve Others

Missionaries are some of the most selfless people in the world. Many leave their comfort zone, their homes, and families to serve God and others. Missionaries give selflessly of themselves.

Their happiness is truly lasting. A selfless person will attract takers and sometimes will be unappreciated. Boundaries must clearly be set. The world may seek the advice of a selfless person and then ignore it. In order to be selfless, whole-hearted and genuine, we must take care of ourselves first in order to give our best self to others.

However, being selfless does not have to mean being a doormat. Stand on the Word of God. The Christian life is not about self-promotion; it is about self-denial.

God didn’t add another day in our life because we needed it, He added it because someone out there needs us.        

 

 

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