WOMEN IN STEP – PART SIX

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” Galatians 5:22a

 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”  Galatians 5:25

I was looking through my blogs and noticed that I didn’t complete this series on “Women in Step”.  This could be because I’m forgetful which is true but more likely it’s because of what the next step is…PATIENCE!  This is the word we all shy away from because it’s so hard to practice.  We live in a microwave-internet society which loves the fast forward button on the remote.  This should not, however, affect our walk as followers of Christ.  Let’s tackle this step of patience by looking at the definition, what God’s patience looks like, and the call for us to be patient with all men.

Patience is in the top 1% of lookup and is the 233rd most popular word on the Merriam-Webster website.  This tells us that the whole world is concerned with this attribute of patience.  Here is the definition of patience. “Bearing pain or trials calmly or without complaint, steadfast despite opposition or difficulty and not hasty”.  The definition gives us a tall order to fill in life as we walk by the Spirit.  Our tendencies are not to wait for anything, but rather to act in our own arrogance, moving forward, trying to control, or pushing others to follow our prideful spirit.  These steps don’t end well in the best of situations.  Most of the time, we will face the consequences of our lack of patience along the way.  God’s patience is displayed for us in the scriptures and we need to learn from him.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.  For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” Isaiah 30:18

God is patient with grace.  In this chapter of Isaiah, Judah has forsaken the Lord and yet God is still gracious to his people.  He waits.  He judges perfectly at the perfect time and with the perfect discipline.  God never rushes to get it done but waits for the best time to extend grace.  He is patient with grace for us as well.  He is God and he never changes so it will be the perfect time when he grants us grace, justice, mercy and discipline.  He is patient to do this to get our attention firmly on him.  It would be great if we would take his lead and be patient regardless of the circumstances.  The scriptures teach us to whom we are to be patient.

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14

Can you believe we are to be patient with all men?  That’s what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica.  This is a huge command to follow.  We are to have patience regardless of the characteristics displayed by others such as idleness, faintheartedness, and weakness.  Our patience doesn’t depend on the other person but should flow out of our hearts toward them.  This requires the work of the Spirit in our lives.  We certainly can’t do this on our own.  The fruit of the Spirit is patience.  We need to let go of our selfishness and allow the Spirit to display the fruit in us.  The big question, is so why don’t we practice patience?

Let’s take a look at the microwave-internet society in which we live.  The result of this society is “I want what I want when I want it”.  Our wants drive us so much of the time, and wants are not patient.  They are demanding.  It’s this attitude which prevents us from moving forward in patience.  Notice the words “moving forward”. Patience doesn’t mean stillness.  There are times to be still as you wait, but more often than not, you can keep moving as you’re following God in patience.  The answers may not be in front of your face but you can trust God anyway.  Is this hard?  Yes.  Should we pray for patience?  This is a question we need to answer.  There are those who claim that praying for patience is bad because God will give us a trial or hardship in order to teach us patience.  The truth is, as followers of Christ, we have the fruit of patience available to us.  The Holy Spirit indwells us and patience is part of the fruit.  We need to display it even when it’s hard to do.  Praying for God to help us allow the Spirit to put patience on display is a great prayer.

Let’s practice patience!  Let’s walk by the Spirit!  Let’s imitate God!

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”  Ephesians 5:1

 

HOW MUCH? HOW LONG?

We wake up every morning knowing we have to meet the day with eyes wide open.  The day can be fully planned in the way we would like it to proceed.   However, with just one phone call, one e-mail, one encounter, or one situation the plan can fall apart quickly.  When this happens it leaves us stunned, out of breath, confused, angry, or in an emotional heap.  It’s hard to face a different day than what we had planned.  It’s hard to face the happenings we didn’t plan to face.  In reality, life is hard and sometimes it just keeps getting harder.  What do we do when we don’t see an end to the hardness of our days?

One thing we want to do is fix it and make our life easier.  We’ll go to great lengths to bring about peace.  The problem is, we can’t always fix the problem.  We are not God!  That is not an easy thing to swallow when we buy into things like, “God helps those who help themselves.”  What a lie!  There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor; otherwise it wouldn’t be called favor.  Sometimes we can fix a piece or a part of our lives only to see another area fall apart.  The truth is, there is only one God and He has our back.  He knows where we are and what is going on in our lives.  As His children, we know that He is with us all the time.  What a comfort that is, as we realize we are not the fixers of life.

If we can’t fix it, then we, at least, just want the trouble to stop.  Sometimes we feel like the clown who keeps getting hit with the pie in the face.  More and more life situations land on us, leaving us messy and unsure of what to do.

“I am weary with my moaning every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Psalm 6:6-7

If you have been in a position where there seems to be one pie after another hitting you in the face, then you can relate with David in the quote above.  There are times when we don’t have any answers and all we can do is grieve the situation.  We can present it to the Lord who comforts us in our grief. How many pies are too many for us to handle?  One is too many on our own.  We can’t handle life apart from God.  He can handle it all; so, we cry out to Him and trust Him to handle it for us.  The trouble may not stop but we can know that in it God is walking with us.

If we can’t stop it, then perhaps we can just know the ending date of this turmoil.  It would be nice to know when life will return to a “normal” setting.  David struggled with the same thing. “My soul also is greatly troubled.  But you, O Lord—how long?” Psalm 6:3  It’s okay to ask the Lord how long this situation will be around, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find out.  Even though we don’t know how long, we must live each day with our eyes on God.  There will be struggles but we can have peace in the struggle as we realize who God is and that He is up to something.  God always wants what’s best for us and that is our conformity to Jesus.  Sometimes that is done through gentleness and sometimes there is more pressure applied in our lives.  God meets us where we are with pie on our faces and a faraway look in our eyes that says, “I’m trying to figure this thing out.”  We have to remember that we don’t always have the answers nor will we always receive the answers to our problems.  It is the time to trust the only one who can wipe away our tears for all time.

What do we do?  Where do we go?  How can we handle one more difficulty?  Jesus took time to speak to His disciples before He was arrested to prepare them for what was ahead.  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33  There’s the hope.  Do you see it? Jesus has overcome the world through His death and resurrection.  If we know Jesus, then this world is not our home.  We have a better one coming with no more trouble.

How much?  How long?  We may have no answers for those questions, but we need to keep our eyes open and face the day with all it holds.  When we look, we will see God walking with us and working through the situation.  He will bring us hope and comfort because that’s what He does!

CHATTER VERSUS THE GOSPEL

Social media is full of chatter and many opinions.  In the realm of Christianity there is much chatter about gender roles and women in the church.  People take sides in these issues and write their opinions, arguments or come-backs to someone else’s opinions or arguments.  There is so much time spent in circling the wagons around these issues that we lose the gospel in the battle.

Are there issues in the church to be discussed concerning gender roles and women?  Yes, absolutely.  My point is that the amount of time and energy spent on these issues would be better served spent in promoting the gospel.  When we spend too much time on issues, the issues take a greater place in our thinking than the gospel.  We can’t live this life well without our thinking being saturated with the gospel daily.  The issues of the day will change but the gospel is eternal.  If we put our thoughts and efforts on the eternal, these issues will be and can be discussed from a different perspective.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:1-2

The gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as being the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Those of us who have been called to believe this gospel have been made into new creations.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  God makes us new in that we are no longer bound by sin but are now free to not sin as Christ lives in us.  This is our new identity.  We become followers of Christ and with Paul can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 

Our identity in Christ should be the engine that drives all we do in our lives.  It affects our understanding of issues.  This driving force is strengthened in us when we take the time to study the Word of God and put the principles into practice.  As we do this then everything we speak of has the gospel driving it. This is the road of progressive sanctification.  We are to put-off old habits of sin and put-on righteous deeds.  This is a lifelong process for all of us.  As we walk this road, we should focus on our identity so that we grow to be more like Christ.

The truth is we focus elsewhere on a daily basis.  We are more focused on what we want or issues we think are unjust than on who we are in Christ.  We focus on what we want in our lives not on what God desires in our lives.  The focus that we have has to be the lens of the gospel.  If it isn’t then we spend more time on issues and opinions than on truth.  The gospel is truth and whatever we discuss should be run through that grid.  The truth is issues don’t save only the gospel saves.

Our chatter should be about Jesus and what He has done to set us free from sin.  This is truth and not opinion.  Jesus changes things in our lives even our opinions.  He can lead us in a way that brings Him glory and is for our good.  Remember when Jesus spoke with Martha.  She was so concerned about her service and need for help.  She was accusing Jesus of not caring because her sister, Mary, was sitting at his feet.  But Jesus said to her, “…Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary, Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42  Do you see the focus?  The focus was to be Jesus.  It is the same today with so many opinions about so many issues.  We need to get back to the gospel and make the focus Jesus.

What is the gospel message for women?  Believe in Christ, love God and love others.  Life is more about God and others than about me.  Are we spending enough time pursuing this gospel?  Can we discuss issues of gender roles and women in the church?  Yes, but not without the gospel being the driving engine.  When the issue becomes my soap box, then I need to look down because I’m standing on my idol. What’s the problem?  The idol won’t hold me up, only Jesus can do that.

 

DOES THE BIBLE REALLY SAY?

Are there sayings you hear often which are attributed to the Bible?  Things we assume God has instructed us to do?  And yet, they are not really written in the Bible for our instruction.  Even though they aren’t there, we will stand by these sayings for life.  There are many, but we will look at only two in this blog.  I think these are said more than any others.  As we check out what the Bible really has to say about these issues, we will find the hope we need for living life for God’s glory.

  1. God won’t give you anything you can’t handle!

We love this phrase because not only does it give us assurance that life won’t be too hard for us, but it elevates us to the position of handler!  There are those who use this to believe that the situations in their lives were given to them by God because they could handle them.  Wow!  Could we be any more me-centered?  The verse that is used for this is 1 Corinthians 10:13.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

This verse is not me-centered, but God-centered.  The temptation or trial we may face is not unique.  It is common; so, we will never face anything that is a surprise to God.  The next phrase shows us the God-centeredness of the verse:  “God is faithful.”  It is God who is faithful to provide a way for us to endure the trial we are facing.  It’s not our strength or our ability.  We are not prepared for most of what we face in this life, but God is.  He will always be faithful to us during the trials.  There are two other verses we can cling to as we go through trials.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“…I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

These verses remind us God walks through the trials with us, and we are never alone.  So, is it me who handles the trials, or God?  It is God who can handle everything we face.  He will walk with us, granting us grace and wisdom as we depend on him to get us through the trial.  The hope is not that I’m all that, but that God is all that!  We need to remember that as we face the many trials we will face in this life.

  1. God helps those who help themselves.

The origin of this saying goes back to the ancient Greeks, but was rephrased by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac.  It became very popular after that and was applied to situations as if it was from the Bible.  It is not in the Bible!  In fact, the Bible says the opposite of this concerning us.  It’s more like, “God helps those who can’t help themselves.”  Let’s look at a few examples.

 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:6, 8

Do you see the description of us in this passage?  Weak, ungodly, and sinners are the words used to describe us.  These words are not very complementary.  It doesn’t sound like we could help ourselves in this state, does it?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”            Ephesians 2:8-9

There was no way to work for our salvation because even the faith we have to believe is a gift from God.  He helps us because we can’t help ourselves.  We are driven by our sinful nature and deceive ourselves into thinking we are “something” when we’re not!

“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”  Proverbs 28:26

The Bible is clear that trusting in ourselves is foolish.  To walk in wisdom means that we know from where our help comes.  God is the help we need for everyday life.  This doesn’t mean that we are lazy and expect God to live our life for us.  It means we put into practice what God has already shown us is wise and trust him daily to help us.  We can’t even follow the practical teachings of the Bible without the help of God.

Where’s the hope?  The hope is in the truth that God can handle anything we face and will walk with us through all trials.  The hope is the help he will give us in every trial.  God is our hope.  May we not rely on sayings the world has created but on God who is over and above them all.  He is the truth!  Let’s believe him!

Why I Read Worthy by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher Twice!

When this book made its way onto the market, I was excited.  Elyse Fitzpatrick is one of my favorite authors which means I check out everything she writes.  Because I work in women’s ministry in a local church, I was very curious to see how the value of women would be developed.  My curiosity was also peaked because of the co-authorship with Eric Schumacher.  Could a man and a woman work together to produce a book to explain the value of women in the Bible?  The answer to that is a resounding “YES”!

The first time I read this book straight through without marking any words or pages.  I just read it for the pure enjoyment of reading it.  It was a joy to read as Elyse and Eric walked through the Bible siting the way God valued women.  They took the time to explore the value of women in creation, fall, God’s promises, Israel’s history, Jesus’ life and death, and today in the church.  It was evident each of these areas were written from deep conviction and study. The reading was delightful, but I knew I needed to read it again in order to really remember and apply the truths within the book.

In my second reading, I noted many valuable truths about God and how he views women.

“…God created humanity in stereo.” Page 26  What a wonderful truth presented by Eric concerning creation!  You need to hear both sides of the music when listening in stereo for it to really be complete and make sense.  Both channels, male and female, are important to God and necessary to work together for the glory of God.

“The woman is not an animal to be subdued, domesticated, used, or ruled over.” Page 35  This is a great way to describe woman’s position as helper.  It’s a position for which she is created. She doesn’t need to be trained for it like an animal.  God has created her for this position.

“When we use the presence or actions of women to excuse the immoral actions of men, we follow Adam in the mistreatment of women.  In essence we’re saying, ‘If it weren’t for women, I would never sin.’” Page 52  This is something we must take seriously.  A woman can’t make a man sin or vice versa.  We choose sin based on our own sinful desires.  This book reminds us of many songs in the world today that make women the cause of man’s sin.  We need to be careful not to fall into this trap of blame shifting whether man or woman.

“It tells us that Jesus welcomes audacious faith.  It tells us that we can presume upon his love and press into his goodness without fear of his censure.” Page 96  This quote comes after a look at the unclean woman who dared to touch Jesus.  He responded by healing her, and calling her daughter. Jesus was not turned off by this unclean woman.  He didn’t turn away. Israel’s law didn’t keep him from welcoming this unclean woman.  What a wonderful message to women!  No matter where we come from or what we’ve done, Jesus welcomes us as we approach him in faith.

“Women, you are free to discern what kind of vocation the Lord is calling you to and he will use you as you work in wisdom for his glory.”  Page 135  There are so many options for women today concerning career.  God has gifted women in different ways but the key is that the gifting is used for his glory.  It is good to not be extra biblical when it comes to careers for women.  Not every woman will be a wife or a mother.  Some will choose other ways of life to follow.  The key is all for God’s glory.

“Women and men together began making disciples and teaching the Word of truth; they were ambassadors for God.”  Page 195  I love this reminder that we are to work alongside each other as men and women for the gospel.  This is how the church should operate today, with men and women working as a team to promote the gospel to the world.

“Women are to see themselves as worthy, not because they’ve accomplished great things, or because they are married and have well-ordered homes, but rather because they are created in the image of God, redeemed by the Son, and gifted to fulfill his commission.”  Page 213  This is a valuable truth about who we are as women and from whom our worth is derived.

These are only a few of the nuggets I gleaned from this book.  The promotion of our identity not being our gender but our status in Christ is huge!  There is so much to be encouraged from in this book, that I’m going to be taking our Women’s Ministry Team through it this coming year.  We will discuss it slowly and hopefully will be drawn closer to God by its content.  So yes, I will be reading it a third time and I know that I’ll find more gems to encourage me to follow hard after Christ as the woman he’s created me to be.

GOD USES OUR PRAYERS

 

How many times have you said, “I’ll pray for you”?  How many times have you walked away from that conversation and forgotten to pray?  If you’re like me, you have forgotten far too often.  One of the ways to prevent that is to pray right then and there with the person.  Another thing you can do is write it down immediately to be added to your prayer list.  You could also ask the Lord to bring people to your mind so that you can pray for them.  The bottom line is we need to be praying for others whether they ask us to or not.  God uses our prayers.
“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b
As we think about the above verse, we need to realize that it isn’t our prayers which have great power but God who works through our prayers.  When we pray, we are calling on God to release his power and grace in a situation.  It is God who will do the work as we bring our requests before his throne of grace.  In the last month, I have experienced many prayers given before the Father on my behalf.  I have lived in the midst of the power and grace of these prayers.  God has used your prayers.
On May 19th, I received a call from my dad.  The tone didn’t sound anything like him.  He was hallucinating about a great prison wall being put up around the neighbor’s house.  That was the beginning of the end of my dad’s life.  During the days that followed he became aggressive, combative, and inappropriate.  This was not my dad and I knew that, but it was hard to live through.  My sister and I endured long days and longer nights with dad.  When I look back at the whole time, I wonder how we did it!  But the truth is, I know.
I described that time to someone as a time of sentence prayers to God.  My quiet time which I’ve enjoyed with my Father for many years was non-existent.  Although I wasn’t sitting to enjoy the Word, learn more about God, and prepare for my day, God had prepared me.  The past study and prayer gave me the truth that was part of what carried me through this hard time.  I could remind myself of what I knew to be true.  Spend time with God!  You never know when you’ll need it!  What a great foundation for times of trouble.
The truth I knew wasn’t all that carried me.  In fact, I think the prayers of others on my and my family’s behalf were vital to our survival.  They were the glue that kept us from falling apart, gave us strength to endure, and peace with our decisions.  People were praying for me and I didn’t know it.  They took the initiative to intercede on my behalf.  God used each of these prayers to carry me along in a difficult time.  God’s power was felt because he was working in response to their prayers.  How valuable are the prayers of the righteous!
Prayer was being offered around the clock for the pandemic situation by our church.  I was signed up for a spot on Mondays at 6:00 am.  There was a sweet sister who knew this and took my spot.  She prayed for my half hour so that our prayer chain would not be broken.  Her sensitivity to my situation was very overwhelming.  This gracious giving attitude helped to hold me up as I cared for my dad.
Dad left this earth on June 10, 2020.  My sister and I were there with him as he breathed his last breath.  Even that was an answer to our prayer that he wouldn’t be alone. We made the decision to bring him home in order to serve him and be with him during the last weeks of his life.  The decision to do that was made through prayer, ours and yours.
Do you pray?  Have you promised to pray?  Have you felt the prayers of others given on your behalf?  Do you take initiative to pray when you hear about situations others are going through?  We NEED to pray for one another.  God uses our prayers to display his power, grace, and love to others.  Thank you to all who have prayed for me.  I couldn’t have lived through this without your support.
“…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16b

TRIBUTE TO RICHARD PRINGLE

Richard Pringle came into my life as a man my mom began to date.  I remember how he would come over to the flat we lived in and bring a carton of Squirt and a ½ gallon of vanilla ice cream.  This was quite the treat for my brothers, Keven, Mark, and me.  We rarely had a snack like that.  He introduced us to many things we never knew existed. Things like hockey, ice skating, and wrestling on the living room floor.  He could handle all three of us. There were times when mom would say that she thought he loved her kids more than her.  That wasn’t true of course. On October 4, 1963, Richard Pringle became my dad. At first, I was very jealous of him taking my mom away from me, but it wasn’t too long until he proved how much he loved and cared for mom and us.  It takes a special man to take on the responsibility of three children who were not his, but he did it without hesitation.

 

A few special memories of Dad:

When mom was in the hospital and had just given birth to Don, I had a 6th grade concert that evening.  Somehow, someone got me to the concert.  The most important thing I remember, is I looked up and there standing in the back of the room was Dad smiling.  He didn’t have to be there but he was.  Proof he was my dad.

 

For the first year after the wedding, I called dad, Richard.  Sometimes it was with an attitude.  I was in the back seat with my two brothers when I heard Keven call him Richard.  At that moment, I was filled with conviction.  I should have been a better example to my brothers.  We stopped for gas, I think, and I got out of the car and called Richard, Dad.  His face was filled with emotion at that.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad was a hard worker.  He worked overtime a lot.  Then August would come, and he would be off the entire month.  There was no such thing as a staycation with my dad.  He made plans each year to take us many places to see many things.  The first year, I remember how he couldn’t wait for us to see the entire state of Michigan.  He loved Michigan.  He also took us all over the U.S.  We’ve been to almost every state and seen many things. We could only afford to do this because we camped.  Dad worked with canvas and made his own tents.  It was always an adventure every August.  He thought of us as he worked so that he could provide and take us places.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad loved my mom.  He cared for her as her mind began to slip away.  He was always conscious of being there for her.  It was his desire to outlive her so that he could care for her; he did just that.  There were many times in the last couple of years when he would tell me that marrying mom was the best thing he ever did.  He would reminisce about how he gained not only mom, but three more children as well.  Mom was a priority.  Proof he was my dad.

 

Dad loved kids.  We know he loved us, but he loved all children.  When he had grandchildren, he was very happy to hold them and spoil them.  He loved the kids next door, down the street, and across the street from him.  One of the hallucinations Dad was having at the end was that of kids.  He was always giving them candy and smiling at them even though they weren’t really there.  There would be candy on the floor where he had dropped it thinking he dropped it in their hands.

 

Dad lived a long time.  94 years old is nothing to take for granted.  What did this man leave behind?  He left behind neighbors who will miss seeing him on the front porch swing. He left behind people who are the children and grandchildren of those for whom he put up an awning in years past.  He left behind a family who loved him dearly.  This family loved him so much, they were willing to come from Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee to honor him.  Some were willing to come and care for him to give Don and I a break.  This family he leaves behind loved him well and will continue to remember him in the years to come.  We will all speak of him in fondly to the generations after us.  And this is the real proof that he was my dad.

MY OPINION VS. MY IDENTITY…WHAT THAT HAS TO DO WITH “FINDING NEMO”!

During this time of pandemic, there have been many blogs written which have been great and point us to Christ.  There have been other ones written which are not so great!  This will probably one of those.  Even as I think of what I’m about to write, I realize I’m writing my opinion. It’s maddening!  Let’s talk opinions.

The word opinion has many meanings listed on dictionary.com, but I want to focus on the first two:  1. “A belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.”  2. “A personal view, attitude, or appraisal.”  The two words that stick out to me in these definitions are insufficient and personal.  If something is insufficient then there’s not enough of it.  If something is personal, then it’s mine.  We all have brains given to us by God and have the privilege of using them to form opinions and conclusions.  There should be the effort to educate ourselves on what is happening in our world.  We should do research on subjects and come to conclusions that will best suit our lives.  As we use our brains, we have to remember that others are using theirs too.  They may come to different conclusions than we do.

If we have an opinion, we consider it right.  Because we believe our opinion and value it, we want others to hear it and get on board with us.  Honestly, that’s what we want but that’s not how it works.  The truth IS we have a hard time when people don’t agree with us.  It usually starts with a heated discussion, leading to anger, leading to ugly words, leading to bitterness, leading to a split relationship.  This is not how it should be.  We have to remember the difference between opinion and truth.  Remember the words from our definitions-insufficient and personal.  We don’t always have all the facts, and even if we do, we process them in our own personal way.  We are different, and that’s a good thing!

Our identity in Christ is more important than our opinions.  If you are a follower of Christ you know, “…You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)   Christ paid the price for our sins on the cross, and God accepted that payment.  So we belong to him!  As his children, he calls us to be the body of Christ, the church.  “…so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5)  The body of Christ consists of many individuals who have different gifts and different opinions.  This is important for us to remember as we strive for unity.  Our unity is not in our opinions but in our position as a follower of Christ.  So we are called to “Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:13b)  How do we do that when we have so many opinions?

A few evenings ago, my husband and I were watching Finding Nemo.  Why?  I really don’t have an excuse!  If you’ve seen the movie, I hope you will remember the seagulls.  We all know that in real life, seagulls are annoying.  I really liked the way they were portrayed in this movie.  They were always shouting, “Mine, mine, mine!” at the top of their lungs as they tried to take any scrap of food they saw.  They claimed it and wanted everyone to know they claimed it.  Here’s what came to my mind:  my opinion is mine, and I need to keep it to myself. I don’t need to be running around shouting, “Listen to mine!”   That doesn’t mean that there won’t be times when I can air it because I’m asked and then discuss with another person civilly. The key here is that I will be asked, not that I will force my opinion on others.

As a follower of Christ, I need to speak with the other person’s best interest in mind, not my own.  We need to live out our identity during this time when so many opinions are floating around out there.  This is a time to be like the seagulls.  We can shout and should shout, “Mine, mine, mine!” when it comes to Christ.  “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)   That’s truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth!  It’s not insufficient data!  It’s not my personal opinion, but it is personal!  Christ saved me! “Mine, mine, mine!” forevermore!

 

“I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD”

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have tribulation.  But take heart, I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

These words were said by Jesus to his disciples to prepare them for what was to come.  He was going to be arrested and crucified.  This was going to be very difficult for them, and Jesus wanted them to know peace in spite of the difficulty.  We, too, need to know the peace Jesus brings us in the face of difficulty.  These words can be a comfort to us.  Here are a few things to meditate on to give us hope in this troubled time.

  1. Peace is in Christ – Jesus doesn’t tell us to find our peace in health, wealth, or possessions.  Notice that he says, “that in me you may have peace.”  What does it mean to have peace in Christ?  Our peace is tied into what we believe.  What do you believe about Jesus?  Do you believe that he is the Son of God who came to the earth in human form to live a perfect life for you?  Do you believe his death on the cross was the perfect payment made in your place for the sins you’ve committed against a holy God?  Do you believe God accepted this payment, and that Jesus rose from the dead?  Do you believe Jesus is who he says he is?  If so, then you are a follower of Christ and are in Christ.  There is where the peace is!  You know that this life is temporary and eternity awaits you. You can have peace knowing that the Holy Spirit walks through these difficult days with you.  The internal is at peace when the external is in chaos.
  2. Tribulation in this world – Jesus always tells the truth. He tells us that we will have trouble in this world.  Sometimes it’s trouble with a capital “T.” We all face troubles in our lives, whether it be with our families, friends, neighborhoods, health, finances, or, at this time, the whole world.  The warning Jesus gives about trouble is to prepare us to face it.  He wants us to face it by exercising peace in him.  We can’t change the mandates that are being given to us all at this time, but we can certainly follow them in peace.  Our peace comes from the fact that our God is bigger.  We don’t have to complain or argue, but we do have to trust him as we walk through it.
  3. Take heart – Jesus tells us to “take heart.” This is an interesting phrase and we need to know what it means.  The literal meaning from Strong’s Concordance is to “have courage, to be of good cheer, take comfort.” This definition certainly does shed a little light on this, doesn’t it?  We must have courage in the face of troubles.  It’s not always easy to be courageous.  When the word courage is mentioned, we think of battlefields or great rescues of people.  In our current situation with the COVID-19 virus, we can also think of courage as being willing to trust God and persevere in the trouble.  Having the courage to homeschool your children, share your food, shop for the elderly, live meagerly, and encourage, encourage, encourage others who may be struggling with some fears.  Notice that the word courage is part of the word encourage.  You are helping others to have the courage to get through this with your encouragement.
  4. Jesus has overcome the world – These words are so comforting to us, especially now. There is victory in these words!  Victory over the world system, which is against God.  Victory over all the troubles we’ll face in this world.  We can raise our hands in victory because of what Christ has completed on the cross for us.  This was victory over Satan and all he can throw at us.  More importantly, it was victory over sin.  We, as followers of Christ, are no longer ruled by our sinful nature.  We are now free to live our lives in Christ without being in bondage to sin.  We are free to rejoice in Christ and what he has accomplished for us, regardless of the restrictions of the world around us.  We are free to follow the restrictions as we think of others and trust in Christ.

As we meditate on these things, the fears of this world dissipate in the light of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Let’s focus on him today and all he’s accomplished for us, that we may live an abundant life.

“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.”  John 10:10b-11a

Who is she again…Life with Dad

There are many who are caring for their aging parents.  It was my privilege to care for my mom for many years until she died two years ago.  Now my efforts are spent in caring for my dad.  I’m beginning to see some similarities in their behavior, even though my dad doesn’t have frontal lobe dementia like my mom did.  My dad, at 93 years, is starting to display some old age dementia.  He often gets confused and current conversations involve asking the same question multiple times.  These things are hard, but they are things I can deal with without too much stress.  There is one thing that distresses me, the loss of my name.

Many years ago, my dad had knee surgery.  The day at the hospital had been a long one as I had to keep my mom in one place.  She loved to wander off and talk to anyone she met.  What lay ahead of me that evening was a sleepover with mom as dad was to remain in the hospital.  I wasn’t looking forward to it because I knew mom wandered during the night too.  I was really surprised when mom looked at me at 8:00 p.m. and saw not me but my stepsister.  I know this because she was referring to those things related to my stepsister.  After I finally got mom in bed, I went to bed and cried.  It was a hard thing to know that my name and actually my face was gone from her brain.  It hurt and left me aching inside.  The rest of mom’s life she knew me and then she didn’t.  God gave me the grace to accept this was the way it was going to be with mom.

I never expected to deal with the same emotions with dad but there isn’t any never, is there?  My brother told me about his talk with dad concerning me.  When I went in on Tuesday evening, dad hadn’t eaten enough food for the day.  This was following him not eating enough on Monday so I was firm and made him eat before I would leave him.  My brother called him on Wednesday and their conversation was something like this…

Dad – She was very upset with me yesterday.

Brother – Who was upset with you?

Dad – You know, Barbara.

Brother – Was Barbara over yesterday?

Dad – No, you know the one who comes over every day.

Brother – You mean Denise?

Dad – Yes, Denise.

I laughed at this when I heard it, but you know how it is when you think about something, your emotion changes.  Yes, I do go over there every day both morning and evening.  He sees me all the time and yet he forgot my name.  I know it’s not purposeful and God will give me grace to endure.  It is just another milestone in this care of him.

The whole name thing reminds me of what the scripture says about my name.   As a follower of Christ, I know my position is secure because of Jesus dying in my place as the payment for my sins and then rising to life again on the third day which sealed my pardon.   Jesus referred to himself as the Good Shepherd.  In John 10, Jesus lets me know my position as His sheep.  It’s all so encouraging.

“…The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”  John 10:3-4

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me…” John 10:14

  “…I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”  John 10:17b-18a

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27-28

My name is never forgotten by my Father God.  I can’t be lost or taken away from my Father God.  All of this is because of Jesus and his willingness to lay down his life for me.  It’s not about him visiting me twice a day, but about his presence with me always.  He never leaves me or forsakes me.

Yes, dad forgot my name but he remembered my presence.  I rejoice in that and know that the days ahead in caring for him, I will be drenched in the grace of God.