Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25, 2012 UP Close and Personal

Yesterday I made a presentation about the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000. My focus was on their characteristics, as demonstrated on a survey, and what our response, as leaders here at BBC, out to be.

According to the survey, Millennials really do want parental involvement (60%)in their lives and they want mentors(40% have one). They believe they are responsible to make a difference in the world (90%) and that it is their role to serve others (75%). They are not religious, but identify themselves as spiritual (75%) with only 35% attending regular worship services.

The morning I made the presentation, my Bible reading took me to Genesis 49:28 which talks about Jacob blesses each of his twelve sons with "a blessing that was appropriate to him." The idea of a father blessing his sons took me to Ephesians 6:4, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. And then Titus 2: 3-5 Similarly teach the older women to live in a way that honors God, They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead they should teach others what is good. These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their own homes, to do good and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

So, as I distill all of this, it appears that God has ordered us as older men and women to bless the younger by teaching them in a way they can receive how to live in such a way that they honor God. And a life lived to honor God will be a satisfying and joy-filled life.

Current research tells us that this generation growing into adulthood all around us want what we have to offer. They want mentoring. The survey (about the Millennial generation) appears to communicate that young people today are seeking the involvement of older adults in their lives. We are being given an opportunity, no, we are being welcomed into their lives to influence them. Our challenge is to rise to the occasion, to interact with them in such a way that they can receive our counsel, to interact in such a way that they do feel blessed.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012 Depressed or Destressed?

I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints and assist her in whatever business she has need of you for indeed, she has been a help of many and of myself also. Romans 16:1-2

Our church works at winning and growing souls through evangelism and intentional teaching, but it also focuses on being involved in both our local community as well as our global community. This morning one of the pastors made an announcement of a blood drive and asked those who had ever given blood to raise their hands. Mine went up because my father’s had gone up when I was a child. His cap was lined with little red tear drops marking how many gallons he had given. Then the pastor told the audience to look around because all those raised hand proved that you could survive the process of giving blood.  His point was that those who hadn’t given blood should be encouraged by those who had.
I’m not exactly sure how my mind works, but before long I was thinking about how we can, without a word, encourage or depress other people. As my mind wandered down that rabbit trail, I thought about how encouraged I am just by thinking about godly older women like Eleanor Mosher and Marie Riley and Ruby Carmen and godly younger women like Christy Stodard Lothamer, Becky Courliss, Karis Mc Call Stiles and Summer and Michelle and Renee and Krista, and I could go on and on. They encourage me because of their godliness in the face of trials, their pursuit of God, and their faithfulness over time and trial.  I don’t even have to see them to be encouraged by their lives – the memories of their input to my life, even when they were not aware of it encourage me.

I have to admit that there are other women who still have the power to bring stress in my life, if I allow it. As their names and faces zip through my memories, I am stricken with grief and pain and regret and stress.  Was there more I should have done? Were their words I should have said or not said? Who is ministering to them now? Is there something I should do now?
When Paul thought about Phoebe, I am sure that a smile crept across his face, and his blood pressure evened out. I am sure that for a moment, in that Roman prison, sunlight warmed his face because Phoebe’s memory brought stress relief. She had lived such a sweet servant life, ministering to Paul and the Church that He told the readers of the book of Romans to give her anything she asked. He had that kind of confidence in her character.

All of this challenged me: when my face crosses someone’s mind, are they encouraged or distressed? Do they remember the times I reached out to them, shared a kind word, laughed with them? Or have I left a trail of pain where my thoughtless words did not turn them to Christ, but away.
I do know, as you do, that sometimes people can miss our efforts to honor God, but I pray this day that God will help me to be that kind of a woman – like Phoebe…whose very memory is an encouragement.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012 Got a little extra?

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them, Proverbs 3:27

As I read this verse, another one came to mind: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matt. 22: 39

Between these two verses, well, even in just the first verse, there is so much to think over or meditate upon. Tying the two together, I think about what it looks like to love someone; wouldn't that love be marked by a giving them good, or whatever might improve their life circumstances. It's easy to give your children good gifts, things that would make them smile with pleasure. But what about your Christian brother or sister who sits a few pews away from you, the one you don't really know all that well, but you overhear something that tells you they have a special need.

As I write those lines, I wonder how many times even those gifts to our children are given with a string of selfishness tied around them; we want them to love us, to notice our sacrifice or thoughtfulness and be grateful to us or love us more. Maybe that's not you, but I know that those motives sneak into my gift-giving from time to time.

Anyway, I am hung up on the idea of withholding good. This isn't a matter of giving; it is a matter of not giving. Should I be looking for opportunities to give? Should I be asking myself Why not? when an opportunity does present itself to do some act of kindness to someone?

In Chad, when your houseguest leaves, it is culturally demanded that you give them everything they need for the, a coat perhaps if it is cold season, maybe money. But not so much here in America. I do remember, when we were first married, my in-laws loading up our car after every visit, filling up every square inch of space with canned vegetables or potatoes and onions from the garden or even extra rolls of toilet paper. I can hear you say it, the same thing I hear myself say, "But you were family."

But we are brothers and sisters to our church family, even our larger church family living around the world. And I wonder what good we withhold from those who deserve it, even when it is in our power to help them. I wonder how much money we really need to live, not a suffering life, but a normal life with all of our real needs met.

I wonder what good and love look like to the lonely, the sick, the depressed. And how easy it is to somehow assume some other ministry in church will take care of them. I don't have any answers today, just lots of questions, and I think that is good. That is what God calls us to ...have questions and find solutions that bring glory to Him.

Catherine Booth (1829- 1890) said, "God is not glorified so much by preaching or teaching, or anything else, as by holy living." and I would add to that, and maybe "giving living, not necessarily always giving money, but giving love and attention."

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16 Need Rest?

Matthew 11:28-30 Then Jesus said, Come unto me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you will be light.
I love these verses and the image it brings to my mind of a yoke, especially when I think about being in a yoke, with Jesus. Guess who is doing all the dirty work, and it isn't me? Can you see yourself in a yoke, with Him? It doesn't matter what the job or burden is; He is the one pulling the weight if we allow Him.

As I read this verse, I am always stunned by both the image and the offer: Take my yoke upon you. He doesn't force Himself on us, nor the yoke which puts all the burden on Him. We get to choose relief or pain. Instead of giving it to Him, we somehow prefer to labor on in our own strength, then whine about how hard it is. I say that because I am speaking of personal experience. It is indeed bizarre how we prefer it that way though I cannot figure out why.

Certainly He is strong enough and wise enough to not only bear our burdens, but to guide us as to how we should handle the portion allotted to us. And He tells us that once we approach Him and give Him, really give our worries and burdens to Him and let Him handle them, we will have rest. Think about what it would feel like to really be free of worry and fear!

Stop right now, look away from the screen and imagine/feel what it would be like to really rest in Him, giving Him all your junk. Astonishing, isn't it? Yet, we appear to be more comfortable living there, shouldering our burdens, rather than living free...because we do it. We fail to give Him our burdens and trust Him with the outcome. We appear to be more at home with worry than with trust.

I am intrigued also with the words, "Let me teach you." Consider all the things that can be learned through challenges: that God honors faith and trust; that He means us to live a life of peace and joy and how to do that; that He is our "very present help," for starters.

If only we were good students consistently. Just consider the quality of life change, if we would just allow Him to steer and to carry the weight of that yoke.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13, Hinting Around?

Matt. 9:35-38  Wherever (Jesus) went, he healed people of every sort of disease and illness.  He felt great pity (compassion) for the crowds that came because their problems were so great, and they didn't know where to go for help.  They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his  disciples, "The harvest is do great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields."

I remember the first time I really noticed this passage. I was sitting on a mud brick pew in Chad reading the passage in French.  Maybe it was the French words that got me - the word compassion in French for pity. Somehow that word had so much more meaning for me.

Anyway, we often read this passage and reference it to encourage people to pray for more people to go to the "foriegn fields." But when you step back and read this passage as a whole, I wonder if more is going on. We see Jesus traveling about, engaging with real people, terminal people and sick people, and I would guess plain old hurting and maybe depressed people. Think through that description of those people as like sheep without a shepherd.

Now He is Jesus, sent here to redeem the save them...and we don't necessarily think of Him as personally engaging with social services kinds of activities. But He certainly did. And in front of His followers, not in secret or when He was alone.

We often hold Him up as a model, a life we are to emulate, except when it comes to people to people helping, in ways we might see as without eternal significance.  But He thought it was important to help relieve temporal and physical suffering.  Preaching alone did not seem to be His mission.  He lived compassion, and so validated His message.

So back to how we use the passage - to tell people they ought to pray. I wonder if Jesus was also showing us how to live, and in His kindness, He modeled it. He didn't preach it.  He showed us how. He did not give us a list of behaviors. He wants us to live lives of compassion, and when we see people who are sick and hurting, to reach out to them. If we cannot help them, He calls us to help them get help.
Just a thought.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012 Still, the Law Haunts!

And we know that all things work together for them that love God, to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

"Instead of thinking of the Christian life as what we do, isn’t it time to emphasize once again what God does?" I was talking with a friend about the years when we were raising our children. Three children = three different youth groups on three different nights. Count in the Sunday night service and Wednesday night prayer meeting. Of course, I was involved with the women's missionary activities and nursery and bottom line, when the church doors were open, at least one or more Kings were there.

We were there because we loved God, but also because that's where we thought we had to be - pursuing God hard, because that appeared to be what the Church said a good Christian did. We went on to be missionaries in Chad, Africa. There I home schooled our three children, prepared 15 0 guest meals in addition to our own family, and this was in a place where there was no grocery store - no frozen foods, and no fast foods. In fact, we had a kerosene fridge and I made most meals on a two burner kerosene stove or a charcoal fire outside.

I also cared for 30 overnight guests , wrote monthly thank yous to our supporting churches as well as assisted in our monthly prayer letters, taught a ladies' class, a sewing class/Bible study, and a boys' class...and for a while an English as a Second Language Class...And canned mango sauce in season and well, you get the picture. A good Christian lady, I played by the rules. The problem is they weren't God's rules. I was pursuing God so loudly that I couldn't hear Him pursuing me.

It was just after siesta, time to make the beds again, the laundry finally dry, and I was at my wit's end, sitting on my son's bed, his mosquito netting in my face as I sobbed incoherently...a failure. That's how I felt, a failure, doing too many things, and feeling like I was doing none of them well. In the ensuing days, I cried out to God often, knowing things just couldn't go on this way.

Cecil Murphrey, author of Encountering a Relentless God puts it this way, "
Many times throughout the years, I’ve cried out to God (in my rebellious moods) and asked why I was the object of such a divine quest. I never heard a voice from heaven, but I have learned this much: I’m not unique. This “stalking” goes on in all our lives, because God has called each of us “according to his purpose.... For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son” (Romans 8:28–29 nlt). As we become aware of this constant wooing from heaven, we also realize that we can’t compare ourselves to others, because God doesn’t speak to all of us with the same voice. The Pursuing One places a strict obedience upon us so that we can’t measure our lives or compare ourselves to other believers. At times it seems as if some of the “good” Christians—even the great leaders of the church—can do things that we’re not allowed to do.

I had to be reminded that God had called me to a life of love, joy and peace, not this agony I was experiencing as I tried to be the good missionary, doing what all the other women appeared to be doing. So I learned I had to say "No" sometimes. I learned I had to first counsel with God before I said "Yes" because He was pursuing me for my benefit. I had gotten mixed up and deceived into pursuing the standards others laid down, or so I thought, and the law that never made people righteous in the Old Testament is not any better when allowed to control a life today.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6, 2012 Pursued!!

Psalm 4: 3 But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call unto Him.

Romans 1: 1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle separated unto the Gospel of God

I love what Matthew Henry has to say about the word separated here: a gospel Pharisee, separated by the counsel of God (Gal. 1:15), separated from his mother’s womb, by an immediate direction of the Spirit, and a regular ordination according to that direction (Acts 13:2, 3), by a dedication of himself to this work. He was an entire devotee to the gospel of God, the gospel which has God for its author, the origin and extraction of it divine and heavenly.

I have spent the last several weeks studying and writing about God's pursuit of us. I know much is written about how we should pursue God, and I certainly agree that the mark of a believer is his or her pursuit of God and all that which would please and glorify Him.

Nonetheless, Scripture is full of passages that show how God has pursued us, and it seemed to me that too little attention has been paid to this concept - that God doesn't just save us and forget us, but that He pursues us because He loves us. He longs for us to live joyful lives, and His pursuit of us is to guide us toward that end.

David recognizes that God has set apart the godly for Himself, and David marks himself as part of that group. Think now about David's life, adultery, murder, willful separation from God, but God calls him a man after His own heart because God knew David's heart, and David did respond to God's pursuit.

Paul likewise had lived a life marked by the pursuit and murder of Christians, but Paul speaks here of God's pursuit of him, God's work in setting Paul apart to the work of God.

So, I believe God continues to pursue us, through His Word, through the Holy Spirit, through memorized Scripture, and through the Body.

What I am looking for is stories - your stories of times when you have recognized God's pursuit in your life - regardless of what He used to accomplish His will in your life. As I have been reflecting and writing, I will site a letter from a Southern Baptist Church that God used in His pursuit of our lives. I can site a missionary's challenge as a voice God used in His pursuit of our lives, and...well, there are many other things I could say here, but I want your help.

Could you share some events or times when you became aware of God's pursuit of you - perhaps a time when He guided you in decision making or prevented you from a course you wanted to follow? I'm not sure what it might be, but allow the Spirit of God to stir in your mind. My goal is to use these stories and Scripture passages to encourage others.

Monday, January 2, 2012

January 2, 2012 Starting Right!!

Joshua 1: 9 Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Ephesians 6: 10 Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.

Yesterday in church, Pastor Richards used the first eleven verses of Joshua, and as he read it, and I read it, it struck me that the Israelites were cautioned to be strong and courageous because they would need to be so. Then we find very similar words in Ephesians 6:10, Be strong. In verse 12, we learn why: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers , against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces in heavenly places.

No wonder we are cautioned to be strong...and courageous. We face some fearsome enemies. However, I love verse 11 in Ephesians 6: Put on the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. When you read schemes, think trickeries, deceitful plans, ambushes, lies, or an organized plan that could result in our downfall.

Now, what struck me first in Joshua was that God honors our obedience. When we are strong and courageous and actively trusting Him, we will "have success wherever you go," Joshua 1: 7. In both Joshua and in the New Testament, we find admonitions to read and learn and meditate on the Word of God, for then you will make your way prosperous and have success and be equipped for every good work, II Tim. 3:17.

I know there are believers who function as if God owes them something because they have "believed in Him." I remember former students saying God had called them to BBC and God would provide, but they did little themselves, giving up too easily.

As I think about this next year, I am reminded that it will not be an easy year, every day, filled with only blessings that I recognize as such. If God calls me to be strong and courageous, it is because He wants me prepared for what is coming. Courageous makes me think that it takes energy and determination to do what is ahead, to work hard. Courageous reminds me that I must take care not to get lured into the easy or pleasant way, but to keep my head up, to keep Him in the right place as my leader, knowing He will never lead me where He will not keep me. The going may get tough, but if I am obedient to Him, if I do pursue Him, through His Word, and walk by faith, not only is success is available, but God desires me to have love, joy and peace.... as well. Gal.5: 22-25.