1 John Chapter 3– What Stands Out

As I continue my meditative reading of the letters of John, this is what stands out for me in Chapter 3:

“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17

How often do you and I do this very thing every day? We pass by the homeless man on the corner without a thought; we ignore the fact that our consumer goods are often produced by people who are enslaved or exploited; maybe we even excuse ourselves from helping the person next door who lost his job, or the fellow church member with big medical bills. We can’t give to everyone and everything, right?

It’s true. It can be overwhelming. However, it’s a clear command, and the Bible has a lot to say about helping others. Here are just a few verses:

  • Deuteronomy 15:11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.
  • Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act. 
  • Matthew 5:42 Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
  • Matthew 25:44-45 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
  • Luke 3:10-11  ‘What should we do then?’ the crowd asked. John answered, ‘Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.’ 
  • Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 
  • James 2:14-17 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

So, what should we do? Well, pray; pay attention; when you see a need you can meet, don’t hesitate. Don’t worry about helping someone who is “undeserving” — we usually don’t have enough information to judge that correctly. Educate yourself–find out about what’s going on in the larger community and the world–remember everyone is our neighbor. Discover your our unique spiritual gifts and then use them in a way that benefits those around you. You may not be called to serve meals at a mission, but maybe you can help in a support position. Maybe you don’t have much excess income, but you do have time. Speak up when you know someone is struggling–maybe you can’t meet all the needs yourself, but together a group you are part of can.

I hope this gives you a few ideas. Remember the parable of the talents. Nobody who used their talents to make more was condemned. We can’t do everything but we can each do something.

For more posts about generosity see:

Spend Yourself

Walking With Jesus–Devotion #10

Being a Biblical Christian, part 2

The Best Ministry

Francis Paget (20 March 1851 – 2 August 1911) was an English theologian and Bishop. Here’s what he had to say about how to grow our faith through the best ministry open to us.

“God puts within our reach the power of helpfulness, the ministry of pity; He s ever ready to increase His grace in our hearts, that as we live and act among all the sorrows of the world we many learn by slow degrees the skill and mystery of consolation. ‘If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.’ There is no surer way of steadfast peace in this world than the active exercise of pity; no happier temper of mind and work than the lowly watching to see if we can lessen any misery that is about us: nor is there any better way of growth in faith and love.”

For more posts about helping others see:

The Helpfulness Habit

For another quote by Francis Paget see:

Learning to Love

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Growing Up, Part 5

Learning about my spiritual gifts helped a lot, but I wasn’t grown up yet. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us:

Each one of you has received a special grace, so like good stewards responsible for all these different graces from God, put yourselves at the service of others.”

I began to seek out ways to use the talents God had given me. This sometimes meant taking a risk, but as a Christian friend once told me, “if you’re going to try something new, do it at church. If you fail, they’ll still love you!” One of the first things I did after taking the spiritual gifts class was start to write Vacation Bible School programs for our church. That was a big risk, because in addition to the skills I had, it required some of the ones I didn’t — crafts and organization. But you know what? I found other people to help me with those. That’s one of the wonderful things I’ve learned about being part of a church family, there are many people who will encourage you and help you when you step out and try to do the things God calls you to do.

Growing up as a Christian has been one of the greatest adventures of my life. Who would have guessed 40+ years ago that a shy introvert like me could do things like … lead a retreat? start a Bible study group for women? Stand up in front of a group and give a talk?

 “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b

For more about following God’s calling see:

What’s Your Vocation?

Your Calling

Your Dream. God’s Plan. by Tiffany Smiling — Book Review

Philippians Chapter 4–What Stands Out

I’ve come to the end of my lectio divina study of the book of Philippians, and here’s what stands out for me in the last chapter.

“…. my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown ….”  Phil. 4:1

When our children were young my husband used to tell them, “people are more important than things.”  In other words, we should never sacrifice our relationships with others in order to attain some temporal item or reward.  I also remember James Dobson saying in a talk that when his father died, he did not mourn for the way his dad had provided for him materially;  he missed and remembered the things they had done together, like fishing.

In this verse, Paul is expressing his love for the Christians of Philippi.  This is what gives him joy, this is what makes his life meaningful.  I believe when we come before God, and are judged (which we all will be), He will not be especially interested in the goals we have reached, the pious acts we can tote up, or the dollars we have donated.  What will be important is how we have shown love to others.  Have we served people sacrificially?  Have we invested time in their well-being and spiritual growth?  Have we helped them and listened to them in times of need?  Have we prayed for them even (especially) when they are difficult?  Have we been the face of Christ to others?

The book of Matthew tells us:

…. store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matt. 6:20-21

Paul’s treasure was the people he loved and served.  What is your treasure?  It’s worth thinking about.

Inspired by the Spirit

This was written by Becky, a member of our congregation who is one of our adult Sunday School teachers.  She used it to open our class, and said she felt the Holy Spirit inspired her to write it.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“things which happened to me have turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that my chains are in Christ.”

Prison became holy ground, a sacred place set apart for God’s purposes.  In his confinement he made room for God.  So consider our confinement in isolation during this epidemic an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and to encourage others.  Paul also said,

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

His heart was so filled with the presence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.  He had peace with God no matter the circumstances and wanted to serve and bless others.  God’s presence with us in confinement makes this one of the most significant times in our lives and a key to fellowship with Him.  He is still in control, declaring,

“Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10

Our strength must be in God.  Times of crisis demand that we turn to each other, not on each other.  As Christians, we are called to be faithful to God and to one another.

All of us want things–expressing them differently.  We want heroes; we want assurance someone knows what is going on in this mad world;  we want someone to lean on.  Paul says Christ is the one to worship and serve–King of Kings–Lord of Lords–the Mighty One–to occupy first place in our hearts and home.  It’s so easy to allow things and even people to be central in our lives.  When we replace Christ with these, we have sinned.  We’re to live in this world as a representative of Christ –serve Him by giving Him our best and sharing His love with others.

For more about the pandemic see these posts:

Small Things

All Times Are Uncertain

Clarity — First Step

 

 

What Is Your Work?

George Body (1840–1911) was an English canon of Durham.  I came across this quote in my devotional reading and really liked it, because it reminded me of the story of the little boy with his loaves and fishes, as well as Mary’s response to the angel who told her of her pregnancy.  Nothing is impossible when we turn our gifts and our lives over to God.

“Say not you cannot gladden, elevate, and set free;  that you have nothing of the grace of influence;  that all you have to give is at the most only common bread and water.  Give yourself to your Lord for the service of men with what you have.  Cannot He change water into wine?  Cannot He make stammering words to be instinct with saving power?  Cannot He change trembling efforts to help into deeds of strength?  Cannot He still, as of old, enable you in all your personal poverty ‘to make many rich?’  God has need of thee for the service of thy fellow men.  He has a work for thee to do.  To find out what it is, and then to do it, is at once thy supremist duty and thy highest wisdom.  ‘Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.'”

Servanthood Required

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:43-45

In our Bible Study this week, somebody mentioned a time when she often missed church because on the weekends, she had to care for her mother who had developed Alzheimer’s.  She said it was a time when she learned to become a servant to another person, someone who often wasn’t very nice to her.

I respect this lady for her devotion to her mother during a difficult time.  I’m sure it was made easier because she was able to remember times when her mother had cared for her lovingly, times before her brain became affected by disease.  Often in our daily life, we are all called to be servants to people who seem rude or mean, and we find it hard to love them and excuse them, because we don’t see a reason for their behavior.  They don’t have a faulty brain.

It’s good at those times to remember that all of us are afflicted by the same disease which sometimes causes us to act out in ways that appear selfish and incomprehensible.  That disease is called SIN.  I’m not saying we submit to abuse from another, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt.  Sometimes people act badly when they’re tired, they’ve had a bad day, feel out of control or somebody just “pushed their buttons.”  Sometimes they act badly because they’ve learned bad behavior from others, or feel insecure, or have had to deal with trauma in the past.  There are a million reasons.  They don’t excuse sin, but they help to explain it.  It is a kind of brain affliction and we all suffer from it to one degree or another, and sometimes we all need to be forgiven.

Sometimes we decide to avoid people who irritate us, annoy us, don’t appreciate us.  That’s not the best solution.  Getting to know another sinner (remember that’s someone just like you), may lead you to see their good qualities;  it may allow you to influence them in a positive way;  you may come to love them, even if you don’t always like them.  It may even lead them to give you a second chance on the days you need it!

In the verses above, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that servanthood is required.  We should probably start practicing today.

For more on being a servant, view these posts:

The Willing Servant

Being a Servant

Get Ready to Get Dirty

 

A Quote on Serving

This was part of my devotional reading this morning, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I’d share.  The writer is Elizabeth Charles, who was an Anglican.  She wrote over 50 books, but her best known was a story about Martin Luther, The Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family.  It was published in 1862 and subsequently translated into most of the European languages, Arabic and many Indian dialects.

“Surely none are so full of cares, or so poor in gifts, that to them also, waiting patiently and trustfully on God for His daily commands, He will not give direct ministry for Him, increasing according to their strength and their desire.  There is so much to be set right in the world, so many to be led and helped and comforted, that we must continually come in contact with such in our daily life.  Let us only take care, that, by the glance being turned inward, or strained onward, or lost in reverie, we do not miss our turn of service, and pass by those to whom we might have been sent on an errand straight from God.

In other words, there are opportunities to use our gifts and serve God all around us, every single day. Open your eyes!  Don’t miss your chance!

God loves you and so do I,

Joan

 

 

How Have I Served?

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10-11

The end of the year is a good time to look back and not only reflect on how I have served others this year, but to make a plan for the coming year.  The verse above tells us that as faithful workers for God, serving is our responsibility …. but how seriously do we actually take it?

Sure, I serve others, but rather haphazardly.  I wait for someone to ask, for a group at church to choose a ministry or for a donation request to arrive in the mail.  I have to admit I rarely sit down and ask myself, “What goals do I have for serving others?” and “How will I reach those goals?”

My “Prevent Diabetes” class has taught me that I can accomplish more than I thought when I have a clear goal and a plan.  Our plan for service should include using the specific, individual gifts which God has given.  I can’t do everything, so I need to concentrate on those things that I do best.

I don’t have the answers yet, because this thought has just now occurred to me.  It’s something I’ll be praying about, and I’m hoping this post will encourage others to do the same.  Look for more on this topic in January as I wrestle with myself and God.  One thing that will definitely be on my list is this blog, which uses both my passion for writing, and (hopefully) my spiritual gifts of wisdom and encouragement.  Have we served you this year, readers?  I’d love to hear some responses.

Get Ready to Get Dirty

“But Jesus called to them and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you;  but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave;  even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.”  Matthew 20:25-28

The sermon at the Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s was entitled, “Jesus Got Dirty.”  The Son of God was born, not in a sterile hospital room, but a stable, filled with animal smells and rotting straw.  He was welcomed by sweaty, travel-worn, unwashed people.  Think about it …. if a feeding trough was the cleanest place to lay a newborn, what were the rest of the surroundings like?  Jesus, the purest person ever, was willing to get dirty to serve us.  Why?  Well, there was no other choice.  Justice had to be satisfied, and it had to be satisfied by a human being.  So Jesus came down into our mess in order to redeem our lives.

This should tell us something important about service.  If we’re to be servants, there are plenty of times when we’ll get dirty.  Sometimes the dirt will just be the everyday grime of life — cleaning up the garage, washing the feet of the elderly, changing babies and cooking meals.  Other times, we’ll find ourselves dealing with the mud created by sinful behavior, selfish decisions and untidy circumstances. Often we won’t know what we’re getting into until we’re mired in that mud as well.

Serving isn’t easy and it isn’t neat.  We’ll deal with death and divorce, disease and distasteful duties. The people we’ll serve won’t always be “nice” or even appreciative. We’ll get dirty… but Jesus was willing to get dirty for us … are we willing to continue His work and get dirty for others?