My heart was recently touched by the kindness of a stranger. I had traveled almost an hour one afternoon to attend the funeral of a good friend’s mom. In tow I had all four of my children, ages eight down to 15 months. About thirty minutes into the drive I realized I had not given my third oldest his medicine to prevent car sickness. Shortly thereafter he threw up in the back of my van. Needless to say by the time we reached the service I was a little harried!
After a quick cleanup of the van we entered the church and was greeted by the funeral director. He took one look at me and my crew and pointed me towards the nursery they had made available to little ones during the service. My kids took one look at that unfamiliar room with new faces and clung to my legs. With a sigh I headed to the sanctuary where the funeral had already begun. Peering through the doors I could tell it was a packed house.
While contemplating where to sit I heard a shuffle behind me. The funeral director had grabbed some extra chairs from the lobby and was headed into the sanctuary. Several trips later he had created an extra row in the back just for us. Grateful, I quietly thanked him and we all took a seat.
About ten minutes later my youngest started to squirm in his stroller next to me. I pulled him out and held him in hopes that he would remain quiet. Those were soon dashed as he began babbling quite excitedly. I was about to get up to take him to the lobby when I spotted the funeral director headed my way. Oh no, I thought. Here he comes to tell me that we are being too loud. To my surprise however, when he reached my chair he kneeled down and gently offered to take my son so I could stay in the service. When I told him that I didn’t think my son would go to him he then offered to sit with my three oldest children so I could take the baby for a walk. Sure enough, after I had left my seat he took my place and began quietly joking with my kids.
Knowing they were not alone I was able to pace in the lobby with the baby while listening to the service. Periodically I would peek through the sanctuary doors to make sure the older kids were behaving themselves. Not only did they sit quietly throughout the entire service, but time and again I saw the funeral director answering their questions and patting their heads in affirmation of how good they were being. I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to have someone be so thoughtful. After the service the director again approached me and asked if he could give the kids a sucker for behaving so well. I appreciated the gesture and my kids eagerly took the candy from their new friend.
In Hebrews we are exhorted to “… not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV) Now I am by no means claiming to be an angel, but I am thankful that the director of the funeral that day took this passage to heart. Through several small acts of kindness he allowed me to be present in support of a dear friend in the midst of her grief. For that I am very grateful.
I believe that God gives each of us an abundance of opportunities to be kind to one another. From sharing an encouraging word, to displaying patience, to offering prayer or financial support, as Christians we are called to reach out in love to those who cross our path. It is my prayer and challenge to us this week to intentionally look for ways we can be of loving service to others we may not know. In doing so we may or may not show hospitality to an angel, but I do know that we just might make someone’s day while exemplifying Christ’s love.Read More
Like anyone, I have my share of worries, and disappointments and I can’t tell you how often I have lain awake in the dark watches of the night working out (or trying to at least) the solution to my issue. I am usually unsuccessful. Through all that wakefulness and frustration and fatigue, I finally come to realize that maybe I’m not as clever as I think I am. I’m stubborn. However, as I attempt to “lean on my own understanding”, I have to remind myself that I have a helper who never fails. Again, I have fallen into the trap so cleverly provided by the enemy.
1 Peter 5:6-11 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you. Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world. Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. The dominion belongs to Him forever.
How do I fall into this trap; time after time?
Until I remember: “Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little while. The dominion belongs to Him forever”; nothing positive happens for me. Fortunately I have established a relationship with the one who has infinite power to sustain me. Sometimes, I wish I could get to it sooner but I am poor and needy. God knows this.
Matthew 6:27 – Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? It’s hard for me to remember sometimes, but God hasn’t failed me yet.
The Bible has much to say about moms and dads. It mostly says that we are to honor our parents and to listen to their teaching (Proverbs 6:20, 21). In fact, our parents are so important that the 5th commandment regards how we treat them—right before the commandment to not murder (Exodus 20).
How we treat our parents is incredibly important in the eyes of God. Leviticus 20:9 says that if anyone curses their father or mother they are to be put to death—Wow!
Let’s agree on one thing: God wants us to treat our parents well even when they aren’t looking or don’t deserve it.
God’s expression of love comes most clearly through the love of our parents. Take our mothers for example. In general, the clearest example of compassion is our mothers. The clearest example of being perpetually on our side is our mothers. The clearest example of self-sacrifice is our mothers. The clearest example of love never-ending is our mothers. The list goes on.
God wants us to honor our mothers and fathers, because they show us what God is like. It is through our parents that God gives us our most basic love needs.
Mother’s Day is not just about our moms. It’s about what God is showing us through our moms. Our Mothers are God’s way of saying he has unlimited compassion on us, he is perpetually on our side, he sacrificed his Son for us and his love is never-ending. Let’s honor our moms as the living expression of God’s perfect love.Read More
I get discouraged as a Christian sometimes because sometimes I compare my actions, and faith, and piety with that of others, and in my mind I come up short. Like the golfer that never seems to be able to make par, I am tempted to give up on the game. It’s an extreme attitude and maybe a “little tongue in cheek” but our failure, especially when self-examined tend to divert us from what is right.
It’s a tool: for satan would love for us to wallow in this self-doubt at the expense of fulfilling God’s plan for us. God doesn’t require superstars, or the perfect, or the pious because he can do great things with the ordinary. Take a look at the ones he chose.
Peter, by Jesus’ own declaration, the foundation of the church, denied even knowing Jesus and was gifted with a quick tongue. Thomas was a doubter. James and John had a selfish interest in their own eventual glory. Matthew was a tax collector. We can think of many modern day equivalents that personify his greed. Saul aka Paul, spent his early times delivering misery to Christians.
Can I find traits in each of these giants of the church that when self-examined, will cause me to doubt my worthiness. When examined with my self-absorbed attitude I can find weaknesses and faults from each, living in me, and more. If I think God requires superstars, I’m not one. But God knows us and knows our weaknesses, and in fact seeks them out. God uses ordinary men and women to do extraordinary things.
The Bible says: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”—1 Corinthians 1:26-29
“God chose the foolish things of the world; He chose the lowly things …the despised things. Who is that? That’s me in a nutshell. He doesn’t need what I alone am capable of; he wants what I am capable of with his help and direction so I need to forget about my self-deprecating and humble myself to accept his hand.
I’ll continue to do my best and trust God to forgive my failures. My image won’t likely be ensconced in some grand church stained glass window like the disciples, but they were flawed men, just like me, who humbled themselves to God’s guidance and allowed God to achieve great things through them. Who knows but that something that God has done with me may someday bear fruits.
Many young children have an imaginary friend or two that they do life with. My son has an entire sword army. My husband and I first began hearing about this mysterious band of weapon bearers several years ago. At first we thought he had picked up the idea from a television show or book, but we never could recall an episode or family reading time involving a militia of any sort.
Over time, we have learned many things about the sword army. For starters, it is very large and they practice, a lot. Every Sunday they gather to fight bad guys. Sometimes with swords, other times with tanker trucks and shields. Adults are not allowed at their station, and everyone is assigned a job to do. They have a family of pretty snakes for pets (the adult snakes are super long while the babies are really short), and they do not believe that root beer has sugar in it.
For the most part we don’t give the sword army much thought. After all, my son is only four years old and we think it’s awesome that he has such a grand imagination. Sometimes though, we wonder if perhaps he might take it a little too seriously. Like the time he told me he was super stressed because he thought the sword army was going to fire him from his job. When asked why he might be fired, my son blamed his dad saying that he gives him too many things to do so he is always late to his sword army job. When I jokingly told my son that he could get a job somewhere else, he quickly retorted that he had already tried every job in the universe, and that he would still choose the sword army even if he might be fired. Oh boy.
Although as adults we may think ourselves too mature to engage in an imaginary world like the one where my son sometimes lives, our imaginations are more present than we may think. Many of us, for instance, often live in the past replaying events and conversations over and over in our minds. Others use our imagination to catastrophize the future, causing ourselves to fear what has not yet happened, and most likely never will. These mental wonderings can result in powerful emotions like anxiety, fear, shame, guilt and regret.
The good news however is that God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love and grace are over our past, over our present and over our future. By faith our past sins and regrets are redeemed in Christ’s name. By faith our future is secure and we can have eternal hope. By faith we know God is actively working for His glory in our present circumstances. We can rest knowing that nothing happens outside of His divine authority.
So the next time our imaginations want to take us to a time of regret, let’s take them captive to the cross and be reminded that in Christ we are all made new. The next time we want to dwell on the worst case scenario, let’s take on an eternal perspective and remember God’s faithfulness. Let us remember the true purpose of our imagination, to contemplate God’s glory, His goodness, His steadfastness and His unending grace and love.
As for the sword army, regrettably one day my son will come to realize that it is all in his head. When that sad day comes my prayer is that as he lays down his imaginary armor he will pick up his spiritual one. That we will have trained him up to recognize there is a real war in this world, one for souls. After all that practice he should be a mighty warrior indeed!Read More
I have been having a lot of conversations lately about the meaning of sin. I sense that there is a general feeling of helplessness when it comes to sin. The rational goes something like this: Christ took away my sin at the cross, I accept his good work, I still find myself sinning, I try extra hard to stop sinning, I am unsuccessful, I start to lose hope, I start to believe things will never be different, and finally I make peace with my sin.
The biggest challenge we have as Christians is knowing what it means to be born again. Jesus says in John 3, that we must be born again. Jesus doesn’t say, “it would be nice if you were born again.” He says, “you must be born again.” Being born again denotes a newness of life. It means breaking away from our old self and becoming a new person.
Here’s the problem: how can we be born again and yet still struggle with sin? How can we be new and yet struggle in our oldness?
Part of the problem is how we view being born again. Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus simply took away any sin I might have in the future? Barring a few exceptions, Jesus doesn’t work like that. If Jesus were simply there to take away all temptation to sin, then what would be the purpose of a community of believers? We wouldn’t need each other at all. We could become fully self-actualized individuals who never struggle with sin.
In my sinful heart, I admit, that sounds pretty good. It’s certainly more convenient, isn’t it? I wouldn’t have to be accountable to anyone. I could be all on my own without the difficulty and inconvenience of other people. I suspect that most of us want that on some level.
But maybe one of the primary ways that shows we are born again is that we enter into committed relationships based upon the life of Jesus Christ (even when it is inconvenient). And perhaps, it is specifically through those relationships that we become born again.
If God truly designed the church as the way we become more and more like Jesus, it now becomes priority, not only as a place of fellowship, but as a means to become holy like Jesus.
I feel frustrated for friends and family who desire to stop sinning, yet they have zero connection to a community of believers. It’s kind of like saying “I want the all the benefits of being married but I want to still live alone.” We want all the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice for our sin, yet we don’t want to enter into relationships that would move us in the direction of holiness.Read More