Thursday, September 6, 2012

What He Requires

Recently while at lunch with a dear friend, she commented all that is required of us (Christians) is the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20): Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (see also Mark 16:15).  I responded that He requires more than that.  Our chat prompted me to search His concerning His requirements for Christians. 

He requires our repentance.  From that time on Jesus began to preach, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17). He requires us to love God and our neighbor as evidenced by His response to the Pharisee’s question Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”   Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-39; see also Mark 12:30-31 and John 13:34-35).

He requires that our light (actions) ought to shine in such a way that others will give God glory which reflects our love for God.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt 5:15-16).  

Loving God with all of our heart, soul and mind, requires us to seek His kingdom and righteousness and not to worry.   Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself (Matt 6:25, 34).  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33, Luke 12:22-31).  

Loving God with all of our heart, soul and mind, requires us to: treat people the way we want to be treated, forgive others, and love and pray for our enemies.  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22, see also Luke 17:3-4).  You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:43-44, 46; Luke 6:27-29)  And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25)   From the number of drive-by shootings and mass murders of family members committed these days, it’s obvious people are not forgiving others nor loving and praying for their enemies.

When we love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, we don’t stockpile possessions; we share what He’s given us and assist those in need. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  Then he said to them, Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Matt. 6:19-20, Luke 12:15).  In Matthew 25, Jesus told a parable to His disciples about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, taking in strangers, and visiting the sick.  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (vs. 37-40). 

When we love God with all of our heart, soul and mind, we can deal with others in love, not by judging or condemning them, to remedy what may seem like impossible situations.   Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven (Luke 6:37-38).  If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.  But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (Matthew 18:15-17). Years ago, a Christian spoke to me in private and shared her concern about something she thought I had said about her.  By her coming to me, just as the Word says, we talked it out and hare remained good friends.    

Sounds like too much?  This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands.
In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, (1 John 5:3).  We won’t have cause to worry as we:
·         repent of our sin while seeking His kingdom and righteousness
·         treat people the way we want to be treated
·         forgive  
·         love and pray for our enemies
·         confront others in love without judging and condemning
·         meet the needs of others by sharing God’s blessings while not stockpiling possessions

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23). Then Jesus said, Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9).

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Full of Thanksgiving

This morning as I bowed before the Lord, I began thanking Him.  I thanked Him for waking me and my husband up with the ability to fully function.  I thanked Him for: allowing me to spend  yesterday out of town at a cottage with a pool with several of my former co-workers, my phone call last night with one of our children and the joy I heard in his voice for what the Lord is doing in his life, the news this week from a childhood friend that her cancer may now be in remission (a true testament of the Lord’s healing power), and my dad and brother’s move together to an apartment over the weekend.  With all the tragic news around the world, the number of grieving families I know, the serious illness of a close member of my family, as well as other issues, I am ‘full of thanksgiving.’ 

Normally during my devotional time with the Lord, I spend much time in intercessory prayer for those who are grieving, sick or injured, incarcerated, living in impoverished countries, homeless, jobless, having trouble in their marriage, for my family, friends, church, neighbors, youth and whatever or whoever else the Lord lays on my heart.  But this morning, I was simply ‘full of thanksgiving.’

No matter what we are going through, we can find something for which to thank Him.  When my grandson’s leg was broken a few months ago, I was able to thank God that the break was above the growth spot.  Had the break been a couple inches lower, my grandson’s growth would have been affected.  So I was able to praise Him for what didn’t happen.  This morning as I bowed before Him, I entered His gates with thanksgiving and His court with praise because He is good.  Are you full of thanksgiving today?  Have you entered His courts with praise?  Today, consider simply giving thanks to Him and praise His name!

Psalm 100:3-5
Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.

For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Monday, July 2, 2012

This Mother's Prayer

While reading my Women’s Devotional Bible this morning, I read a devotion by Gloria Gather that got me to thinking about  my son whose birthday is next week.  In her devotion titled “I Wish You” Ms. Gaither referenced the third chapter of Ephesians after reflecting on her daughter’s college graduation party.  She had listened to her friends wishing her daughter success which caused her and her husband to discuss what they wished for their daughter.   They decided they wouldn’t wish wealth or notability for her.  Ms. Gaither said they would wish some sunshine, some rain, growth, vision and the ability to feel what those who are hurt or left out or lonely feel.  This drew them to the Book of Ephesians. 

My mind strayed back to my daughter’s wedding in October, 2008 when I quoted Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1 and 3 in the commemorative bookmark given to her guests.  We asked Deanna’s guests to place the bookmark in their bibles and reference it in praying for Deanna and her husband. 

So as I think about the upcoming birthday for my married son who’s a soldier and father of three, I offer Paul’s same prayer for him.  Like the Gaithers, I’m not asking God to give Damian, my firstborn, wealth and notability. 

In this open letter to my son, Damian, I want you to know that for all of your birthdays: 

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,  and His incomparably great power for us who believe.  I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Happy Birthday, Son.  Love, Mom

Friday, June 22, 2012

Generous Givers

A couple weeks ago, I volunteered at a week-long, Christian-driven day camp for youth run by a married couple who are close friends of mine.  I saw how they poured themselves into their ministry by ensuring that, in each of the well-thought out activities, all of the youth participated.  Some of the youth have attended the camp for years; for others it was their first time.  My friends had the youth change their seats throughout the week so that they could get to know each other.  As a result, new friendships were formed.  The youth learned about the importance of faith, enhanced their communication skills, and by week’s end, several had memorized and were able to recite the camp’s affirmation statement.

During my morning devotion a few days after the conclusion of the camp, I read 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; 10-13 and thought about this couple:

    Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.   Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not relunctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

    Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

Last night, I was with a friend who brought together a group of people to discuss concerns they had about their apartment building which had recently changed ownership.  She provided plenty of food and beverage and structured the gathering in such a way that all felt comfortable expressing their issues.  On numerous occasions I’ve seen this friend give of her time, talent and treasure to replenish and build up the Lord’s people. 

I am blessed to be surrounded by many friends like these, people who sow generously, whose service not only supplies the needs of the Lord’s people but overflows in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of their service, others praise God!  They are role models for me and my husband.  While we have volunteered and financially supported our church and a number of charities over the years, we have become more generous in our giving, not in an effort to outdo anyone, but because we know “thanksgiving to God” is the result and others will “praise God.”  We can testify about His abundant blessings. 

Are you a cheerful, generous giver?  If not, consider moving in this (His) direction; remember, He will supply what is needed for you to bless His people.  If your response is yes, keep doing what you’re doing for God loves “cheerful givers!”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sleepless in (insert your city)

Last night was another sleepless night for me.  I don’t know how well you are sleeping these days, but I don’t sleep through most nights no matter what time I go to bed.  While I’ve always been an early riser, I know there was a time when I slept regularly through the night…not that I can remember when!  I know I’m not the only one with this problem because others (some much younger than me) have posted on Facebook that they can’t get back to sleep.

There are several reasons why I have difficulty sleeping through the night.  The first one is because I’m a light sleeper…it takes a while for me to drown out internal and external noises.  The second reason is the permanent neuropathy (numbness) in my right foot bothers me more at night than any other time.  The third reason for my sleep difficulty is that every night after I fall asleep, my Bladder and Kidneys decide to torture me between midnight and 3:00 am.  I’ve been unsuccessful in ignoring them!   

When I return to bed, my Lower Back and Right Hip begin their nightly dalliance with Ms. Osteo and Mr. Arthur (osteoarthritis)!  The problem is after they get together, they never want to separate until I get up and move around.  Since I know the four of them have an addiction to each other, I occasionally take Aleve right before going to bed as a ploy to keep them separated.  Last night, they figured out my game plan, slipped past Aleve, and began jamming the night away. 

After a couple hours of intermittent sleep, Bladder and Kidneys got jealous of the foursome and decided to torture me again.  Ignoring them was useless.  I yielded to them again!  With sleep evading me, I began thinking about the seven relatives and friends I had visited during the week who are battling illnesses and bereavement.  It’s now 6:00 am on a Saturday morning.  I slip out of bed for the third time, grab my prayer journal and head downstairs where I spent the next hour in intercessory prayer. 

I think my inability to sleep through the night may be a ‘thorn’ the Lord has given to me... to keep me mindful of how blessed I am and prompt me to pray for those who are in the midst of a storm.  When you’re unable to sleep, consider those you know who are in a storm and intercede on their behalf.   I’ve learned there’s more than one way to feel rested!  But if you see me nodding or I come across as irritable, consider that I may have just had another sleepless night! 

Ephesians 6:18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Whose Opinion Matters

I love my children and value their opinions.  They are college-educated, married adults with children of their own.  Although I value their opinion, I do not let their opinions sway me against God's Word.  This has been heavy on my mind after I received an e-mail on May 9, 2012 from President Barack Obama with the subject heading "Marriage."  In this e-mail, President Obama said "I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry."  He said he "was reluctant to use the term marriage because of the very powerful traditions it evokes."  He went on to say "when I look at Sasha and Malia, who have friends whose parents are same-sex couples, I know it wouldn't dawn on them that their friends' parents should be treated differently.  So I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry."

I've been quite disturbed by the President's position but not for the reasons you might think.  Although I do disagree with his position, I was most disturbed because nowhere in President Obama's May 9 e-mail did he state he had come to his conclusion based on his study of God's Word.  Several news articles noted "Obama had previously implied the Bible supports homosexual unions."  But it's this quote from the President about his position that I have difficulty accepting “If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans.”  I hope that President Obama misspoke when he referred to a biblical passage as obscure.  I'm guessing he's referring to Romans 1:18-32  (in particular vs 26-27  Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.) 

During my Bible study, I read the following devotion about 2 Tim. 3:16-17 by Kathryn Hilton:  "Sometimes its hard to distinguish our cultural beliefs from Biblical truth.  As we grow in the Lord, we must examine our beliefs to make sure they are based on what the Bible says rather than merely on what we were taught...If we do not test our beliefs against the Bible, we may perpetuate human opinions rather than God-ordained doctrine, cultural mores rather than Biblical morality.  We need to examine our own beliefs and be responsible for what we teach others, including our children and people in our church.  Are we teaching them our opinions and our perspective, or are we teaching them God's?" 

2 Tim 3:16-17 says: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."  For this reason, I wouldn't call any passage in Romans "obscure" and wish that President Obama had not said so, too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Without Ceasing

This morning I was reading Chapter 1 of Romans.  You can read a scripture several times and all of a sudden something with stand out.  When I read Romans 1:9, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayer” (underscore mine) it spoke to me. 

Yesterday, I was honored at a luncheon along with 22 other women.  The theme for the luncheon was “Extraordinary Women Doing Extra Ordinary Things.”  My sister asked me how did I get selected; what were the criteria?  I told her I didn’t know.  After reading the brief bio this organization wrote about me, it became clear.  It was noted that ”that my ministry is visiting the sick, shut in, and bereaved families in their time of need”, “if you need a special prayer,” I’m the one to call, and that I “will sit and hold your hand when you need that extra lift to get you through.” 

I had no idea in 2006, when I quit my well-paid job with perks and excellent benefits, what the Lord had planned for me.  I had long ago adopted Jeremiah 29:11 as one of my favorite scriptures: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  His plan for me - a ministry of prayer and visitation - became clearer over time. 

For years I have written my prayers in journals which help me remember those who need prayer without ceasing.  I focus on the sick and bereaved the most.  I pray for bereaved families for two years.  I lift to God my family (my husband, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren, extended family), my church family, friends, neighbors, those serving in the military and elected officials (1 Tim 1:1-2), young people who I know are going through a tough time, my three World Vision children and my four Godsons, and those who I know who are incarcerated.  God never fails to place someone on my heart. 

I have shared with my prayer partners that often my heart is burdened because of what others are enduring.  We are instructed in Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  I get overwhelmed sometimes by what others are going through, but I also receive encouragement as I see God answering my prayers.    

If you pray that that our God would count me worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power (2 Thes.1:11) there is no doubt that I will continue to visit the sick, comfort the bereaved, and serve as a prayer intercessor without ceasing as the Lord leads me.  To God be the Glory, Honor and Praise!