At All Times

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“A friend loves at all times.” Proverbs 17:17

I was a little upset with a friend a few days ago.  Do you know what terrible sin she committed?  She didn’t agree with me, and she told me she didn’t. Now I certainly wasn’t furious.  But I was hurt. I got defensive.  I felt frustrated.  I didn’t see why she couldn’t “get” my position.  I don’t like conflict, and even this minor disagreement made me feel out of sorts for the rest of the day.  Sunday of all days.  How annoying.

This morning I remembered this verse and I got over myself.  You see, the Bible tells us to love our friends at ALL times.  Not just when they’re supporting us.  Not just when they’re behaving the way we think they should. Not just when they follow our advice.  Not just when they AGREE with us.  So I wrote my friend a note. I still don’t agree with her, but  I told her I cared about her and valued our friendship (I do).  I told her I appreciated all that she does for me and our community (I do).  I realized that loving each other doesn’t depend upon complete agreement.

Here’s the bigger lesson in all this.  In John 15:15 Jesus says,

“No longer do I call you servants….but I have called you friends.”

Jesus is my friend, and he loves me at all times.  Not just when I am being “good.”  Not just when I’m paying attention to Him.  Not just when I’m praying or praising Him, but all the time.  I‘ll fall down and disappoint my friends.  I’ll get annoyed and say angry words without thinking.  I’ll be inconsistent and bull-headed.  Jesus won’t do any of those things.  He is my one constant, yesterday, today and forever.  And He is my friend.  How wonderful is that!  What does He ask in return?  Just this:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:  just as I have loved you,  you are also to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 12:34

What does this loving friendship look like?

“Love is patient and kind;  love does not envy or boast;  it is not arrogant or rude.  It does not insist on its own way;  it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

If Jesus is my friend who loves me at all times, shouldn’t I try to be the same kind of friend to others?

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Remembering Others…

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My next door neighbor, Mrs. Thompson, passed away following a long illness this past year. She and her husband lived next door to us for as long as I can remember. They knew my husband and I when we were just dating, they attended our wedding, and they shared in many holiday and life experiences with us. I was always surprised by how much interest Mrs. Thompson took in our lives. Despite taking care of her husband, visiting with her many friends, keeping her household and being very active in church activities, she always seemed to know what was going on with us. When my beloved cat died, she wrote me a three page letter about how special he had been her. When we first purchased chickens (an interesting endeavor!), she and her husband were the first to come over with their video camera to chronicle the event. She would call just to check in, and drop by to bring us snacks on the holidays. She always made me feel special, loved, and appreciated.

Her funeral was packed. Much to my surprise, many people stood up to talk about those special letters that she had written them over the years, and all of the kind things that she had done for them. How she had time to do so many things for so many people I will never know. It seemed that she actively remembered everything going on in all of her friends lives, and was always passing her love on to others.

Reflecting back on my own actions, I am sorry to say that the same can’t always be said about me. I get easily caught up in my day to day life, and may go weeks or even months without as much as saying hello to my neighbors. I am not much better with friends or family either. I often get the “are you dead?” call from my mom after a few weeks of forgetting to check in. I am not know for my excellent memory of birthdays either- my big sister often calls me on family members’ birthdays, just to give me a friendly reminder ‘not to forget’.

With this being said, if I could make any new years resolution for self improvement this year, it would be to take note and follow in the footsteps of my good friend and neighbor Mr. Thompson. To try daily to write one personal note, make one phone call, or reach out to at least one friend or family member daily to see what is going on in their lives. I have put the following bible verse on my phone as a daily reminder of this:

Mark 12:30-31 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

“To Die is Gain.”

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Once upon a time . . .

when humanity was young, and quite innocent; they lived in a place of unimaginable beauty and endless possibility. And then humanity was deceived. We failed to trust our creator, and though the lie was not ours, the doubt and greed fully belong to us. The rejection was not of the place, the food, or the vast kingdom that in inheritance belonged to us as well. The rejection was power and love our Father and Lord possessed. We rejected Him.

What was not known in the dawn of time was that with the failure of trust, blinded by greed and naivety, revelations would be made. The tree of knowledge of Good, and Evil. The name says as much as it implies. Before what would they have known? Neither good nor Evil. The infinite wisdom of God would be too much for them to bear. A better way is to slowly introduce information, to take eternity and explain and teach. God wanted to show us the universe while building a relationship.

From the very beginning it was Him who loved us more.  Suddenly, too suddenly, we knew what worse than bad was. We knew shame, and embarrassment, and lust. We knew regret, and sadness, and fear. We were overwhelmed.

Still God our Father loved us. For our own sakes, he removed us from Heaven. People without self-discipline tend to ruin good things. Not to mention Everlasting Life (The tree of Life) combined with Irrational, self-destructive sin would be disastrous. Therefore, we were separated. How painful that was. Not only for us, but for God. The Alpha and Omega that feels anguish as well as joy. Can you imagine first being rejected by your children, and then having to remove them from the situation to protect them? Maybe some can, because all this resulted in a broken world. A world that for our own sakes requires a barrier of sorts.

Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

Not only between heaven and hell, but between heaven and earth. It’s a burden we must bear. Although Christ came so that we can eventually see our heavenly home, we mustn’t risk it with open borders. Narrow is the road. While we have hope of seeing not only our loved ones but also our merciful Savior, there’s still a gap. A lonely realization that we are to suffer here till our time comes. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t believe in a better, very real, life that exists beyond our reach; it’s that we cannot follow where they go. It’s the harsh separation that stares us in the face. Our despair comes with the knowledge that these bodies we inhabit must endure here for a time.

Philippians 1:21&22 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose?  I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

The End?

Seek The Kingdom

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“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your  Father knows that you need them.  Instead seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:29-31

Yesterday I spent most of the day with a group of ladies who are preparing to conduct a Via de Cristo Women’s Retreat weekend.  The leader gave us an ice breaker question.  We were tell the group what was the most important thing to us about our original weekend.  It was interesting to hear because there were so many different answers.  For one person it was the music;  for another a particular talk;  for another a conversation with a Pastor.  Women spoke about the love they felt, the acceptance they received and the people they met.  I heard comments like, “God must have planned that weekend just for me” or “I knew I was there to hear that one talk.”

What I got out of this was how different we all are.  Everybody needs something.  Not just food and drink, or money to pay the rent, but things like peace, friendship, mentoring, uplifting.  How amazing that God knows all our needs, physical and spiritual, and when we seek Him genuinely, He provides not only provides it all, but we get it at just the right time!

The key is for us to remember to seek His kingdom always;  to rest in His presence and His provision every day.  He knows our every need!  He’s taking care of things.  If we learn to seek Him, not just on retreat, but in the press of daily living, our lives would be so much easier!

So, I’m asking our readers, have you been on a Via de Cristo weekend, or any form of Cursillo retreat?  How did God provide for your needs that weekend?  I’d like to hear more answers.

How to Recognize a Christian

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When a consecrated believer follows the Lord faithfully several evidences appear sooner or later.  Meekness and quietness of spirit become, in time, characteristics of daily life.  Other outward signs are:

  1. Grateful acceptance of the will of God as it comes in the hourly events of each day
  2. Pliability in the hands of God to do or bear whatever he assigns us
  3. A sweet disposition, even under provocation
  4. Calmness in the midst of turmoil and confusion
  5. Willingness to let others have their way
  6. Refusal to notice slights and wrongs
  7. Absence of worry, anxiety and fear

Taken from The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith

12 Steps for Sinners

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I’m not a friend of Bill’s and I’ve never been to an AA meeting.  However I have read a number of books written by members of AA and also books about AA.  I think people who practice the 12 steps are some of the most spiritual folks around and I often wonder if all us shouldn’t use them as a guide to Christian living.  After all, don’t we all suffer from addiction to sin?

Imagine what would happen if we got up in front of a group of people on some regular basis and said, “My name is (fill in the blank) and I’m a sinner.”  I know, we confess every week as part of the worship service, but that can easily become rote and meaningless.  Many of us say the words (at least some of the time) without really thinking about them.

Imagine how it would feel to regularly do a “fearless moral inventory.”  You know, actually admitting and taking responsibility for the sins we have committed, instead of sweeping them under the rug and hoping we could just “move on” by ignoring them and hoping they never come out into the light.

Imagine what the world would be like if we actually tried to make amends to people when we wronged them.  Saying “I’m sorry and I’ll try not to do that again” can mean a lot if it’s sincere.  Doing what we can to correct the situation we created means even more.

What if we tried, actually tried to be open to God’s leading and grow closer to Him?  What would happen if prayer became a priority in every Christian’s life?  Not something reserved for Sundays, but an integral part of each day.

Suppose, having worked through the steps ourselves, we committed to carrying the gospel message to others?  Not because it’s our duty as a good church member, but because we knew what relief and peace it would bring to many suffering souls?

These are some of the things AA promotes and that addicts who are “working the program” do.  It doesn’t work for everyone, because as one author says,

“Many less desperate alcoholics tried AA, but did not succeed because they could not make the admission of hopelessness.”

In other words, they have to hit bottom.  The same is true of Christians.  We know we have a problem with sin, but we have the mistaken illusion that we’ve got it under control.  We can live with it.  It causes some problems but nothing we can’t handle.  Well, read the sermon on the mount (our sermon topic last Sunday) and think again.  If you’re angry with someone, you’re on the path to murder;  if you insult your brother by calling him a fool you’ve born false witness, when you look at someone lustfully, you’re in danger of adultery;  if you divorce (no matter if it’s legal or amicable) you’ve broken a covenant relationship.  We all have done these kinds of things and more.  We can’t manage our sin on our own. We need a Savior.

Think of the church as “Sinners Anonymous.”  Take the first step and admit the hopelessness and helplessness of your life without Christ.  Then live like someone who knows things have to change.  I’m going to try to.

 

 

 

 

A (belated) Valentine’s Day Thought

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There is a good zeal that can lead a married couple to God and to everlasting life. Practice this zeal then, with most fervent love.

  • Be the first to show respect
  • Support with patience one another’s weaknesses, whether they be of body or character
  • Compete with one another is showing mutual obedience
  • Do what you consider useful for the each other rather than what is useful for yourself
  • Love one another with sincere affection, and have a loving fear of God. Prefer nothing whatever to Christ. May He lead you together to everlasting life.

Adapted from the Rule of St. Benedict.  Apply it to any relationship!

Study Resources for Ladies

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Since we have no set topic this month, I thought I would post about the Bible Study resources available for women through the WMF (Women’s Missionary Federation).  Every year this group publishes a Bible Study written by a woman of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches.  Each study has 11 lessons, intended to be used at monthly women’s meetings within the congregation.  Of course, the studies could be used by other small groups or individuals as well.  Writers are not paid for their work, and proceeds go toward the printing of the studies and the WMF projects — missionaries and education.

Click on “WMF” on the header of our blog to go to the website, then choose resources to see what studies are available.  I was privileged to write this year’s study on the book of Acts.

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Go Ahead, Make My Day

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“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, …” Colossians 3:12

Well, the yesterday didn’t start out very well…I overslept (yes, even retired people can do this).  My husband and I had to jump up and rush around so that he could get to his breakfast meeting with another Pastor, and I would be ready to drive our granddaughter to school.  I didn’t have time for breakfast and when Katelyn arrived, she was being a typical Monday morning teenager;  rolling her eyes, shrugging instead of answering my questions, looking generally  bored and unhappy.  When we started out the door, I wasn’t in a good mood.

Then something happened.  We got to her school and pulled up to the drop off area.  It was a gusty day and one of the male teachers on duty came right up to the passenger door.  He opened it saying, “It’s windy, so I want to make sure your door doesn’t get away from you and is closed tightly” and then “Hello Katelyn, have you got everything?”  He gave me a little wave.  I hadn’t said a word, but his kind and helpful manner changed the way I was feeling.  Instead of feeling irritable and grouchy because of my growling stomach, I felt happy and thankful to be noticed and treated helpfully and personally.  It turned my day and my attitude around.

So my question is, why don’t we all do this more often?  Why don’t we take the time to see the people around us as people and realize that our behavior may make or break their day?  It doesn’t really take much  effort to be courteous;  to say thank you;  to be patient when someone is struggling or new on the job; to address someone by their name if we know it or see it on a nametag; to offer help or hold a door or just say “have a blessed day.”

Did someone make your day today?  Thank them and thank God.