Thinking Differently on Success and Fame #Church

wind in the house of islamScrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I discovered an article rant on Hollywood. The smiling faces of famous rich people wearing clothes that cost more than I make in a month is like that bulletin board advertisement off Highway 69 whose photograph said to me, “Look at how happy I am, why aren’t you buying one of these homes?” God gives us gifts. Not all gifts are meant to go viral or make us wealthy.

Rafiq had a successful music business in France. He became a believer and moved back to North Africa with his family to play music for the Lord. When the interviewer (A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison) asked Rafiq why he didn’t work in New York or Los Angeles where his talent could get a bigger platform (and make a lot of money), Rafiq shared the dream he had about this question.

In his dream, an old man showed Rafiq a meadow with sheep. Rafiq also saw a little boy, “sitting on a hillside playing a flute.”

A Wind in the House of Islam continues on pages 97-98:

The old man in the dream said, “What else do you see?”

“I see a little shepherd boy.”

“And what is he doing?” the old man asked.

“He is playing a flute,” I said.

“And why is he playing a flute?”

“He is playing it,” I said, “so the sheep will know that they belong to him.”

The old man said gently, “You are that shepherd boy. And that is why you must continue your music, so the sheep know that they belong to him.”

Rafiq makes musicals in North Africa and his people are listening. I put down this book and went to read another chapter for my morning devotions in my NIV Stewardship Study Bible. It seemed like God had a theme: fame, money, success, and provision. I was listening. My heart felt a bit overwhelmed as 2016 brought the death of a family dog and medical bills. 2017 didn’t improve with the death of our cat and vet bills. Other things are happening, too, that made me feel stressed. The old voices in my head kept asking me, “What are you doing with your writing?” Those voices define success by money, celebrity status, and looks. I can’t listen to that voice anymore.

Exodus 3 talked about Moses and the burning bush. A shepherd was being called to go to a different pasture and use the gifts he didn’t know about yet to bring God’s people away from slavery. God instructed Moses to use the right wording to identify himself as sent from God–I Am. This would establish trust so Moses could follow God and lead his people to, “a land of milk and honey.” The devotion about this talked about how God provides for his people:

“God is both predictable and unpredictable He is absolutely predictable in his faithfulness to provide for our needs. What we cannot predict is how the Lord will provide. He uses various and sometimes surprising means of meeting our needs. Regardless of how he chooses to provide for our needs, he is utterly reliable.” (pg. 72, Exploring Stewardship; NIV Stewardship Study Bible).

The devotion quotes Andy Stanley’s reflection on giving. We are fearful as church people. We are compared to the farmer who fears losing his seed so he doesn’t plant anything. In my twenties, I gave little to nothing to God and His church. When I understood Stewardship, giving became a part of our morning worship, even our daily worship, as we pay monthly fees for ministry upkeep and invest in equipment to help share the Gospel as well as giving to our home church. Now that I am raising support, I find it odd to say how I like this feeling of standing on the precipice between middle class and poverty.

Instead of seeing the terrifying drop over the edge of the cliff, I see what Indiana Jones saw in, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A bridge. The Lord’s provision: The free washer gifted to us from a friend, empathy from friends going through similar situations, unexpected new shoes and clothes that come from someone who likes to go shopping and the stores have no return policy, and income that comes from places I didn’t expect. It brings me back to Rafiq in North Africa.

The American Dream haunts us. Success as defined by our parents and grandparents make us feel inadequate when we are “only” using our gifts in seemingly small ways. When my name isn’t on a book cover or when I do not have a piece of paper from a prestigious college or university, you feel worthless, like you aren’t doing enough or aren’t qualified. People with great talent are looked on with pity when their platform isn’t big enough. Instead of looking at our gift as something to become famous with, we should look at our gift the way Rafiq now looks at his music–as a way to let the sheep know that they belong to Jesus.

Your writing, your music, or your gift doesn’t have to obviously be Christian. It can become a vehicle that leads to meaningful conversation online about your faith, your testimony, and what the Bible says about Isa al-Masih (Jesus).

What is God asking you to do with your gift and abilities? Is your giving too comfortable? 


That’s Why I Have Holes in My Socks!

“Obedience is among the interlocking stewardship principles presented in the Book of Deuteronomy.

(Pg. 211, NIV Stewardship Study Bible)”

obedience, word, Bible

It struck me that obedience is said to manifest itself in finances. How we spend our money measures our faith and obedience in the Lord. This is a concept that never occurred to me when I attended church in my early twenties. I always said I never had any money to give to tithing, but I had the money to spend on things like coffee or day old muffins. The Lord was very last in my priorities, including reading His Word.

There were so many concepts in Deuteronomy 8:1-20, like trusting the Lord will provide water from hard rock, that He will lead us through the wilderness, to thank Him for his providence, and don’t worship other gods. The Bible has other stories of God providing to the faithful, especially in the New Testament. When I sit down and do my taxes every year, I look at my profit and loss margins. Most of the time it is a loss, but when I add up all my expenses for running ministry every year, it is pure wonder how we manage to pay the bills.

I said to a friend, “No wonder I have holes in my socks!” This was after I added up the expenses of just running three websites! Even after all this giving, God managed to answer prayer and provide plane tickets and cars that still run. When I look back at me in my twenties, I pity that girl.

She was missing out on so many blessings! While she barely read the Bible and was a Christian in name only, the me in my twenties struggled to find an intimate relationship with the Lord and the blessings that come from it. I lived in sin. I entertained sin. I struggled with it. She eventually became who I am today, but not until after a very long struggle within myself.

I’m sitting in my kitchen and thinking especially of Deuteronomy 8:2 in which I am reminded how God led me through the wilderness to humble me, test me, and to know my heart; especially so I can know my own heart’s intentions. From this day forward, I know He’s going to do amazing things. I know it’s going to be an amazing several years. Soon, I will be raising support so I can start this new vision full time. I wish it had not taken me so long to understand the principles of stewardship, obedience, and faith! I feel like I am starting out so late in life, but I know it’s perfect timing in God’s plan.

Devotions: When I Was Single… @Biblegateway

“The book of Leviticus begins with one of the Bibles basic assumptions: we must worship and serve God with the resources and possessions he entrusts to us.” – Page 123, NIV Stewardship Study Bible

Day 3: Living Generously Study

Read Leviticus 1-4


When I was single, I had no money. My tithing was service. In reality, if I had been a good steward of my finances, not spending foolishly, I would have discovered what I know now–there is contentment in living on faith. 

So while I was partially correct that an offering to the Lord can be service, I missed the point on those stewardship sermons. I missed the blessings of giving beyond what I thought I was capable. God gives us what we need and asks us to give from His generosity.