“Just a Little Resistance…”

“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”  He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” – Luke 23:25-28

So, according to Jesus, this is the key to life.  The greatest commandment.  But what does it mean?  How can I love God with everything I have?  As a good friend reiterated to me a couple of days ago, “You can’t give an “A” effort to everything.”  And she is right.

So how does my devotion to God work with family, work, school, and all the other things that are important in life?  I don’t have all the answers, but I do think I took a step closer to understanding this week.

First of all, I work for a church.  I have the great privilege of working with a whole group of holy people, of which I am the very, very least.  But their influence is good on me.  So you would think I would be on top of things spiritually, but to tell the truth, I am not.

For Lent, our church offered a do-at-home, Bible study for families.  I admit, my family has never done an actual Bible study together (CHURCH WORKER ALERT!). My only consolation is that possibly some of my dentist friends have children with cavities.  But my spiritual failings as a parent are not at issue here (maybe??.)

So we decided we would be faithful and do the study together.  It is on the Gospel of John.  Things started off wonderfully.  We sat down after dinner Sunday night, opened our Bibles, and one by one, began to read chapter 1.

It was amazing!  I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to sit there, for over an hour, with my children and listening to their thoughts about these sacred words.  I was inspired by their depth of knowledge (Thank you Sunday School Teachers!) and their eagerness to be there.  I was so thankful that we were doing this together.  Surely this was something that would be easy to continue for the remainder of Lent, for we all enjoyed it so.  This would be great!

Then Monday happened.  We got up, rushed to work and school, ran home, started laundry, started dinner, started homework….   And as we were cleaning up for dinner, the thought occurred to me, “We all feel terrible, it’s late, we will just skip tonight and catch up tomorrow.”  The truth was, allergies and some other issues had hit us hard that day, and we did all feel pretty much like doing nothing.  Plainly put, I was just weary and in a bad mood.  It wouldn’t hurt to miss a night.  We will catch up.

However, my ailing children had other ideas.  We were going to do that Bible study, sniffles, sneezes, coughs and everything else!  I am ashamed to say that I tried to talk them out of it; reasoning that we all needed our rest.  They would have none of it.

So out the Bibles came.  We read, prayed and discussed.  And it was wonderful.  It renewed my soul.  I had fun with my kids, again listening to what their thoughts were.  We held hands and prayed.  We not only prayed for our own needs, but some of those we knew of in the community.  It was the best thing I had done in a long time.  And I don’t know if the kids enjoyed it so much because we were doing something together, or if they were just that excited to read the Bible.  But either way, their enthusiasm was contagious.  I was thankful they had insisted.  Because, with just a little resistance, I was more than willing to let that opportunity pass us by.

So, what does the scripture above mean for me?  By not allowing ourselves to focus on the negative, (We can’t because….,) we were blessed.  By staying with the positive (We will, regardless…) my soul was refreshed with new life. It wasn’t easy, it took what seemed to be the last of my strength that day. But Jesus was there and He was faithful.  I think I am beginning to see…

Peace my friends.

Most gracious Lord,

Thank you for continuing to strengthen and encourage my family.  Our hearts are willing, but our minds are weak.  Forgive me, for putting all other things first.  Have mercy on me, and continue to lead me into faithfulness, especially when it isn’t easy.  Thank you, for your work in my children’s lives.  Help me to live as a better example and teacher for them.

In your precious name I pray,

Amen

“Your Soul Is At Stake…”

Our reading today comes from Matthew, chapters 23-25

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023&version=NLT

We are coming down to the end of Christ’s passion, and as we journey forward we can feel His anxiety and His sense of urgency building throughout these chapters.  It is almost as if you can see Him, speaking more loudly and in a more rushed tone of voice.  In these final days before His death, He seems to be desperately trying to get one point across:

Get your heart ready, time is short!

We see multiple parables and encounters that relate to this theme, and I am struck by the intensity of them.  What I am taking away from these 3 chapters is this:

Jesus is going to come back, and most of us won’t be ready.  Frightening isn’t it?  When He returns, and His angels begin gathering up the faithful, will I be one of them?  Will you?  I don’t claim to know anything more than what these particular scriptures tell us.  But these are the main points that I am hearing loud and clear:

1.  Jesus will come back

2.  He will gather up the believers

3.  Many people will be left behind

4.  Religious activity will not get you recognized.

5.  Faithfulness is the key

6.  It takes a lifestyle of daily faithfulness to prepare ourselves for the judgment.

7.  No one knows when He will come.

 

As I read these passages, I was overcome with grief for those that were left behind.  In all the stories, those folks that thought they were doing the right things, those folks that thought they had more time – they were tragically mistaken.  And the door closed on them.  Forever.  I don’t know about you, but a life sentence in eternity, with no chance of parole, is a harsh thing to imagine.  And yet, Jesus says, many church folks will end up there.

So what does it mean to be faithful?  I think that is something that each one of us needs to really spend some time with.  We need to be praying and asking God to show us the paths of righteousness and help us to walk them.  But I do believe that going through the religious motions is definitely not the way.  This is just my opinion, but going to church, serving on a committee, and throwing a $20 in the plate every now and again is probably not going to cut it.  As He says Himself, even being a devout tither won’t get it either.  So what will?

As I said earlier, we each need to be seriously asking that question for ourselves.  But two things were pretty clear to me.

1.  Heart condition – I believe that Christ will judge our hearts, minds, and attitudes without giving a second thought to our public activities.  Did I love others? Did I forgive?  Did I do my best to lead other people to Him?  Did I take care of those that couldn’t take care of themselves?  Did I give and serve with a cheerful and generous spirit?

2.  Relationship – Do I have a deep relationship with Him?  Did I spend time with Him daily?  Did I immerse myself in His word, so that I could be transformed into His likeness?  Did I put Him above everything else?

For me, only by doing these things daily will I become like Christ.  Connecting with Him occasionally, worshiping Him only through convenience, and serving Him on a couple of days a year will not prepare me for His coming.  I don’t think on that surprising day, I want to try to explain to Him why He hasn’t heard from me in a while and why I have been too busy to attend worship this month.  My soul will ride on that conversation.  I want it to go well. I just want to hear those grace-filled words, “Well done good and faithful servant. Come into the joy of your master.”

This message was so very clear for me.  I would love to hear some feedback about your impression of these parables and encounters.

Blessed Maundy Thursday Friends.

 

Heavenly Father,

You try so hard to get my attention.  And You wait for me to get it, so that I will not perish.  Praise be to mighty Jehovah!  For you are merciful, slow to anger and quick to forgive.  Speak to me Lord, in ways that I can understand.  Show me the faithful path.  Walk with me each day, and lead down the path to salvation through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Show me how to finish well.

In the name of my Savior I pray,

Amen

 

“Am I praying for you as I promised?”

“I praise your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness; for your promises are backed by all the honor of your name.  As soon as I pray, you answer me;” – Psalm 138:2-3

 

Question for the day:  Am I praying for you as I promised?

 

Happy July Friends,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday week.  I know that I did, experiencing all the blessings of visiting family.  We went to Pennsylvania last week to spend a few days with my beloved’s family.  I had a good deal of time to reflect on what family means, which led me to fixing my mind on you, my church family.

Maybe some of you think me odd for calling you family, but that is what you are to me.  You are the people that I rejoice with over the celebrations in life, you are also the people that I turn to when I am in need.  I consider each of you a member of my family, and I hope that you each know how much I care for you.

So what does it mean to be church family?  Many things come to mind, but the one thing that is sticking with me these days is prayer.  At one time, if you have made joining the church a part of your journey, you have promised to uphold the church family of Liberty Crossings with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.  This is a commitment we all make as we covenant to do life together.

In my experience, as I worked at finding my place in this family, the final four were pretty easy.  I showed up, gave money, volunteered where I saw a need, and shared my faith when led to.  But I must say that intercessory prayer, those prayers said for others, has probably been my weakest link.

I have always prayed faithfully for those that came and asked.  People with problems or circumstances that were challenging many times have requested that I pray for them specifically and it is always my privilege to do so.

But I have not done a good job of praying for the welfare of my brothers and sisters walking through every day life.  So, if it is alright with all of you, I would like to focus this month on creating a discipline in my life of intentionally praying for others.  I believe this is the most important thing I can learn to do in support of my church, and I want to take it seriously.

This is an especially good time for all of you to share your prayer needs.  I will share them with the rest of our community if you wish, or I will just pray for you myself if you would rather remain private.  So if you feel led, please don’t hesitate to call or email me.

 

Gracious Lord,

I pray today for my church family.  I ask that Your Holy Spirit would move mightily through our congregation and that each one would be filled with an unquenchable desire for Your presence.  I pray that every person would be drawn deeper each day into Your heart and Your vision for their lives.  I pray that our families would place You in the center of their homes, and they would begin to experience Your grace & mercy, Your peace & power, Your love and contentment in powerful ways.

May we become a church full of God chasers- that never give up our pursuit of full communion with You.  Teach us, Father, to love You with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength.

In the name of Jesus I pray,

Amen