Is Your Body Suffering?

Today I went to church.  I walked from my car in a public parking lot with my Bible in my hand and never once felt afraid.  Entering the foyer of my church, I visited with fellow worshipers in front of large windows without once looking to see if anyone was watching us.  When it was time for the service to start I joined with others as we sang loudly and our musicians played loudly without worrying that someone might hear us and report us to the police.  My pastor stood up and gave a sermon reading from the Bible without any fear of being dragged out of the church and off to jail.

For me the worst persecution I might face because of my beliefs is hearing some comedian make fun of Christians.  But I really know nothing about real persecution

Today was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I wonder how many churches actually took time to pray for their brothers and sisters who face real difficulties because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

The book of 1 Corinthians compared the church to a body.  In that chapter it states:

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it…”

One group who documents persecution in other countries has listed North Korea as the country with the worst persecution of Christians.  To be a Christian in North Korea is to be seen as an enemy of the state.  If someone is found to be a Christian they are treated as a criminal and sent to labor camps or even killed.  Their family also faces harsh treatment.  They cannot meet openly and it is very dangerous for them to gather in more than groups of two or three.  Because being a Christian is so dangerous, it is even hard to know if someone you meet is also a believer as everyone has to remain secretive about their faith.

In Afghanistan no expression of faith except Islam is permitted.  To become a Christian is seen as betrayal of the family, the tribe and country.  Anyone who becomes a Christian is exposing themselves to death even by the hands of their own family.  They are considered to have brought shame on the family and the family honor must be protected at any cost.

In India it is the radical Hindu nationalists who view Christianity as alien to their way of life.  Christians are often physically attacked and churches burned or bombed.

In Myanmar persecution of Christians (and other ethnic minorities) is backed by the army which leans toward Communism.  More than 100,000 Christians live in camps for displaced persons, deprived of access to food and health care.  Buddhist monks have taken over churches and made shrines to Buddha on the church property.

These are only a few of the places where the body of Christ is suffering.  The causes range from corrupt government to the various other religions of the world.

But today as fellow Christians are suffering, I have to ask myself if the body of Christians in America share in any way in their suffering.  Where are the prayers?  Where is the concern?

I believe a large part of the problem is we simply do not know how we can help.  Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Become informed.  There are several organizations that can help you gain more understanding of the persecution taking place around the world.
  • Pray.  We often under estimate the power of prayer.
  • Write letters to those who are in prison.   Many who have been released from prison have testified how much getting letters meant to them, giving them courage to endure.
  • Become a spokesman for helping the persecuted church.

The writer of Hebrews tells us to “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Here are a few organizations that work with the persecuted church.  Check them out and learn what you can do to help.

  1. OpenDoors: One of the most well-known ministries advocating for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  2. Voice of the Martyrs: Another well-known ministry that raises awareness and provides support for the persecuted church. (Write, Pray, Donate, Advocate, Learn)
  3. Samaritan’s Purse: Their ministry focuses on providing physical and spiritual aid to people around the world. They also provide opportunities to donate to the persecuted church. (Donate)
  4. PrisonAlert: Prison Alert is part of Voice of the Martyrs. (Advocate, Write, Donate, Pray)
  5. Be-a-Voice: Part of Voice of the Martyrs as well. It focuses on providing prayer points and writing letters to the persecuted church. (Pray, Write)
  6. icommittopray.com  (Pray)

Part of the body of Christ is suffering?  How does it effect you?  Are you suffering with them?

 

 

With Awe and Reverence

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Great and holy God

awe and reverence

fear and trembling

do not come easily to us

for we are not

Old Testament Jews

or Moses

or mystics

or sensitive enough.

Forgive us

for slouching into Your presence

with little expectation

and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need

neither Jehovah nor a buddy—

neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us

to want what we need…

You

God

and may the altar of our hearts

tremble with delight

at Your visitation

amen.

Frederick Ohler

We All Need Some Quiet Time

My small group at church is reading the Gospel of Luke this month.  Taking it slow, not rushing through but looking carefully at the stories Luke tells.

One thing I noticed as I read is how often Jesus took some quiet time away from the crowd.  Three different times in the early chapters Luke tells us:

“Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place.”

“Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayers.”

“Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night.”

If the Son of God needed quiet time, how much more do I?

I find myself surrounded by noise – TV, radio, cell phones.

I need that quiet time – time spent not only talking to God but taking time to allow His peace to be mine.

Today there is a lot of interest in “meditating” where we are encouraged to empty our mind.  But the quiet time I think Jesus calls us to is not emptying our mind but rather filling our thoughts with His word, His presence.

“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”   Joshua 1:8

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.  But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.”

I realize finding quiet time is easier for me at this age of life.  I’m retired, children all grown.  My days are pretty much free to do what I please, when I please.

But for a young couple with small children or families with teenagers, finding that quiet time has to be a difficult thing to do.

As I have thought about taking more quiet time myself this week, I have asked God to help me spend more time praying for those single moms, busy families that they will feel God’s presence even in their “noisy” environments and busy lives.

Do you find it difficult to have quiet time?

What do you do to make that quiet time?

Extravagant Worship

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My devotion today told the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with costly perfume as he sat at dinner with his disciples.  Her action was criticized by those who thought it was money that could have been better spent on the poor.

Jesus responded that she had done a beautiful thing and this act was in preparation for His death.  He also added that this wherever the Gospel was told this woman’s story would be included.

According to the Gospels, this was not a cheap jar of perfume purchased at the local storefront.

Matthew referred to it as “an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment.”  Mark called it “an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly.”  John says it was “an expensive ointment made from pure nard.”

Researching the fragrance “nard” it appears it would probably have been imported from India and according to the complaint of Judas, it would have cost at least a year’s wages.

Not only did this woman share this expensive perfume, which may have required all her savings to purchase, she took quite a brave step in coming in and kneeling at Jesus feet.  He was having a meal with his disciples.  Not a place for a women to enter except to serve the men.

This was extravagant worship!  She gave all she had both in her finances and in her courage to act.

Makes me wonder how much my worship is extravagant.  When in a worship service at church, do I just sing the words or do I really think about their meaning and sing to God from my heart?  Sadly I think how many times people wonder into worship minutes after it has started and greet others as they amble to their seats?  Is our worship authentic or do we just go through the motions?

Worship is more than just a service at church also.  The word is derived from the Old English weorþscipe, and simply put means to give worth to something.

I give worth to God by much more than the half hour or so of singing on Sundays.  I give (or don’t give) worth to God by the way I live, how I treat others, how I spend my time, my energy, my resources.

Thinking of this woman’s extravagant worship, I ask myself “Does my life reflect that kind of love and commitment to God?”

In line with that thought the story of David in 2 Samuel tells of worship that is extravagant.  David wanted to buy a field from Araunah the Jebusite to make an offering to God.  Araunah offered to give David the field, the wood for the fire and the animal for the sacrifice.  David insisted on paying for it all and said, “I will not make an offering to God that does not cost me something.”

Dear Lord, may all I say, all I do, all I think be an offering of extravagant worship and may I be willing to give all of me – talent, time, energy, finances – to honor you.

Where is the Evidence?

This past Sunday I missed the service at my own church filling in at another local church for the organist that was out of town.  The pastor’s sermon really spoke to me and reminded me of a song I heard years ago.

Since that time I have seen one line from that song on church’s signs, in church bulletins and even on Pinterest.

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

The pastor spoke about the need to be more than a “churchy Christian.”

He shared the story where Jesus had fed a multiple on a few fish and bread.  He was drawing large crowds and the people were ready to make him their leader.   If a poll had been taken then his popularity rating would have been high.  Now was the time to begin setting himself up as a great rabbi.

But Jesus did something that in the natural really seems illogical.  He began talking about his body and blood being the source of eternal life.  (I will not try to get into any theological discussion about the meaning of all this.)  The point is – what he did was unreasonable to the natural mind.  If you were wanting to increase your following, this was not the way to do it.

At that point many of his followers turned away.  Jesus even questioned his twelve closest followers if they too would leave him.

The pastor then pointed out that truly being a follower of Jesus Christ may often require us to do things that seem unreasonable, things that go against all that our culture tell us is the right thing to do.

Is it really reasonable to love your enemies?  To pray for those persecuting you?  Is it really reasonable to put others before yourself?

He then asked the congregation if we are more than “churchy Christians.”  People who go to church, support the church with our finances, even do “good” deeds to others.  But when it comes to being passionate about our faith, when our commitment to God calls us to do the unreasonable, where do we stand?

Got me thinking today.

If I were arrested for being a Christian and my neighbors, family, friends were called as witnesses, what would they say about me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful for the Lion – Thankful for the Lamb

In our worship today we sang about the Lion and the Lamb.  Those two terms are often used in Christian circles to describe Jesus.  But what a contrast!

Think of a lion.  The mighty king of the jungle.

lion

He is big, he has a tremendous roar.  He symbolizes power and strength.  Lions have often been used as symbols of royalty.  Many of the ancient palaces of kings and temples of pagan gods were decorated with statues of lions.

And these descriptions describe Jesus Christ in His role as king and resurrected Lord.

Old Testament prophets foretold of a coming Messiah who would be king.

Micah told us:

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”

Isaiah spoke of Him:

“There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

Daniel had a vision of this coming king and told us:

“And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

Jesus Himself accepted the title of “King” when confronted by Pilate:

“Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth”

But then there is the lamb.

lamb

Lambs are considered to be meek animals.  They have no sharp teeth, no claws, no physical way to defend themselves.  They run from what frightens them and the only protection they have from predators is to band together in large groups for protection.  Sheep were one of the earliest animals to be domesticated.  Dependent on protection from the shepherd, it is doubtful they could ever survive in the wild.

Yet the Bible often refers to Jesus as a lamb.

Isaiah in describing the coming suffering of the Messiah, described Him as a helpless lamb.

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth;  He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.

When John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the one coming to deliver he referred to Him as a lamb.

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

And Peter spoke of Jesus as the lamb without blemish or spot.

“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” !

I am so thankful that my Savior is both a lion and a lamb.

Powerful yet meek.

Majestic yet humble.

Calling for justice and righeousness yet standing for grace and mercy.

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I’m glad my God is a powerful and mighty God.  So glad when I go to Him with my problems, I know I am going to a God that is able.  His strength is mine.  How often I have called on that strength –

  • When my father left my mother and me when I was only 14 – He became the source of strength and love I needed to go on with hope.
  • When my husband was killed in an accident and I was left to raise two little girls, He promised to never leave me and He gave me the wisdom and courage to go on with hope.
  • When the doctor said my cancer was very advanced and aggressive and there was not much hope I would live long, He assured Him that He would walk with me though this “valley of death” and gave me the determination to fight with all my might this dreadful disease with hope.

I am also glad He is a meek and loving God with mercy and grace.

  • When I became all stressed out about my future and my aging body, He assured me that just as He has been there for me in the past, He will not leave me now.  He understood my worry and concern and did not condemn me for my lack of faith.
  • In the many times I have allowed my own thoughts and feelings to lead me to gossip, not forgive others, to be disobedient, He has never stopped loving and drawing me back to where I need to be in Him.

It was His love (the lamb) that led Him to the cross – thank God for the Lamb!

It was His power (the lion) that brought Him out of the tomb – thank God for the Lion!

 

 

 

God and My Daughter Share a Talent – They Knit!

One of my favorite Psalms is 139.  Reading it today this portion stood out to me.

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One of my daughters has her own website where she sells the most beautiful hats, scarfs, sweaters that she creates.  Along with selling her products, she also makes hats for cancer survivors, wraps for new mothers or mothers who have lost children.  She is a teacher and each year makes neat hats for every one of her students.  Every item she knits is a work of love whether she is making something to give away or filling an order for something she sells.

Watching her knit I am amazed at the skill required to create these beautiful gifts.  She clearly did not get that talent from me.

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Today I thought about the time, skill and effort she puts into each creation.  I believe that is what God has done for us.  We are not just accidents that happened.  God has designed us with love and skill also.

I am a product of the greatest artist that has ever existed – Almighty God.

Over the years my daughter has made me several beautiful scarves, wraps and sweaters.  I treasure each one.  First, because I know they were made with love.  But also because they are so lovely.  I always get compliments when I wear one.  My gifts are all stored carefully on shelves in my closet.  I would never think of just throwing them on the floor or stuffing them carelessly in a drawer.

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One of my favorites sweaters she made for me

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Most of my sweaters were just gifts from her but I did make a special order for this one.  I love the bright yellow buttons that just set this sweater off!

So – I realize I need to take good care of my body.  First, because God made me with love.  But also because this body – even old and arthritic – is still a wonder.

To those who read this post, I hope you will realize what a miracle you are and how much you are loved by the great Creator.

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If you are looking for a beautiful scarf, hat, wrap or baby item, go to Facebook and check out BekaBoo Creations.  You not only will love anything she makes – but you will be helping a teacher who gives her all to her students.