Conversation on the Porch

 

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” John 14:6 NASB

You wouldn’t believe the story of my lifelong friend’s family if I laid bare all the facts out in front of you as a case in the court of law. How could anyone’s sister be so twisted as to leave their elderly mother in a small town nursing home to wither away, causing the coroner’s report to read “failure to thrive,” all the while, spending her mother’s designated trust fund money for her last days on her own raucous living? Her sister kept it quiet all these years. Sallie never realized the truth until after her mother had recently passed away.

I struggled to comprehend Sallie’s family history even into our forty plus year friendship until the last day of my week long visit with her in her home in a neighboring state.

“Acts 12 has become my favorite chapter lately,” Sallie told me in her familiar confident, dramatic tone. We were in our usual places on her front porch, which faced the mountain range, watching the birds flitting around the multitude of feeders, while sitting in the white plastic lawn chairs early in the morning. I turned to the chapter in my Bible as she scrolled to the passage on her phone. “See,” she said when I got to the part in Peter’s story that spoke to her, “the church prayed…… how does your Bible read? Earnestly? Mine says fervently. That means with great passion they prayed for Peter’s release from prison. That just gets to me how we as a church need to be more passionate in our prayers for missionaries and our own church staff.”IMG_20150719_151149

Reading further in the story, I noticed something wholly new in verse eleven: “Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” (Acts 12:11)

“Sallie,” I said, “I just saw this. Peter had to leave his people. His Jewish people. His family. His church/synagogue. His lifestyle to be something new, a Believer in the risen Christ.  That was a life change!” Sallie stared a me. “You’re right,” she whispered, suddenly seeing it too. Dianne, that’s what happened to me. I had to leave my crazy family behind to follow Christ. My family is my church family now. My ladies group on Friday nights. The people who come through my door on their way in to worship.” She thought about it. Yes, just as Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26). “Some family are easier to leave behind than others,” she mused.

Peter was rescued. You are too–from errors, evil, and enemies. He wants to give you Himself. Sallie’s family is her church family. She grieves over some of her family members choosing a lifestyle not in line with the truth. She prays for them, keeps a window of her soul open to them in case they want to see her and hear of the Lord’s love for them, but in the dailiness of life, she has moved on. And she’s the better for it.

Tough? You bet it is. Ask Nabeel Qureshi, the young Pakistani-American who chose the truths of the Bible over the errors of the Quran, which led to his parents asking him to leave their devout Muslim home, for good. He has said, “I left Islam because I studied Muhammad’s life. I accepted the Gospel because I studied Jesus’ life.”

Thankfully, not all families are ones to leave behind. There are those wonderful parents who love and obey Jesus and walk the talk of the Christ-filled life. But. If you have those in your family who are keeping you from growing in Him, ask the Lord to strengthen you to choose Him and walk with Him fully.

Now, go out in His joy and be led forth in His peace.

Doing the Christ-filled life

 

Whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do.

– James 1:25 (NIV)

When we worship with fellow Christians something special happens. Instructed from the word of God, taught and encouraged by singing and praying together, as well as giving to meet the needs of others, and remembering the sacrifice of our Savior make the time we spend together a blessing.

Too often the motivation to live more faithfully fades into a distant memory once the church services have ended . We don’t always take what we learn in church and walk it out in our daily lives. If we leave behind what we learned, we miss out on putting our discipleship into practice. Taking to the street what we heard in worship means treating our families and neighbors the way Christ would treat them. It means showing integrity in our workplace; loving our children as parents; going across the street as neighbors, and respecting those in authority over us in government. As the verse from James quoted above tells us, it means for us to go beyond listening to acting.

Worship and fellowship together as Christian brothers and sisters gives us the tools and understanding of God’s love that help us live faithfully. Wherever we go when we leave the service, we can resolve to share with others the unity and peace that Christ’s love inspires in us. Along with worship and fellowship, God desires our discipleship and service.

Dear God, help us not to take the blessings of life in Christ for granted but instead to share them with those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Eyes off Your Troubles. Focus on Him

 

sunset one

“Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.” Matthew 6:34

There are those days when our feelings dominate our beliefs. Right? In this culture of “if it feels good, do it” mentality, our beliefs tend to get tossed out the window and we camp on our fleeting feelings to carry us through our days.

That’s exactly what happened to those disciples. Mark 6 tells the story of Jesus and his disciples trying in vain to have a mini retreat to mourn the loss of John the Baptist who had just been killed.

Scene One:  Jesus invited them to get in the boat and push off to a lonely place and rest. But the people, not knowing of their grief, followed them, wanting a moment of time and teaching from Jesus. So Jesus brought them together on a grassy knoll to teach and heal them. The crowd grew hungry and they forgot to bring lunch. Jesus instructed those weary disciples to feed them. They found five loaves and two fish.

Right before the disciples’ eyes, Jesus fed over five thousand people with that small offering. Catch this. Before Jesus gave the food to the disciples to give out to the people, He lifted his head to heaven and blessed the food. All the power that Jesus poured out came straight from His heavenly Father, the Provider. Jesus’ provider  became the people’s Provider. Was this act lost on the disciples? Apparently.

Scene Two:  Jesus tried again to send His beloved tired disciples out on the boat “to a lonely place” to retreat. To rest and to breathe. Jesus hung back to say good-bye to the last stragglers trudging back to their homes, filled.

The seasoned fishermen seemed to be over their heads that night, straining with the oars, the wind was so powerful. After midnight, with the storm still raging, they spotted a ghost out on the water! Scared out of their wits, they screamed and hollered. Basically, they panicked. Jesus, the ever calm one, said to the frantic men,

storm with Jesus

“Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.”

As soon as He entered the boat, the storm abated. They breathed and just stared at Jesus, wondering, not about what just happened, but who was this man?

The next verse says, “for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” (Mark 6:52)

Take away:  As I was pondering this, some of my single moms come to mind who have told me their concerns about whether they would be able to provide for their family. A job is on the line, they are laid off right now,  struggling with some bills, feeling desperate, tired and sometimes alone. Such very real concerns. But this story said a few things to me about how similar we all are to the very human disciples.

The disciples had left their jobs and families to travel the countryside with this prophet who had called them. And just recently, they had been hit with the news of a dear friend, John the Baptist, who had been brutally killed. Jesus, knowing they all needed some rest and some time away from the crowds sent them away on the boat.

But LIFE happened.

 The crowds demanded their attention. They all had to press through their weariness, their grief, and minister. Again. But Jesus also showed them His Father’s provision at the meal when he fed all those people. He knew the crowd wouldn’t get the deeper message that He provided the food.

After that miracle, Jesus once again, showed His power over the creation by calming the storm in front of His disciples. Why?

To show them that He provides. He protects. He is God.


 I know. We’re all like the disciples. Spell it out for us, Jesus. So, you provided for my family so far. You’ve put food in our bellies all last year and the year before. But today, Jesus, it is different. This job doesn’t pay enough and I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep providing for my family. Jesus, I’m tired. I’m lonely.

We all have these times when we are leaning into our feelings and forget to lean into our beliefs about who Jesus is and how He has been providing. He has been our strength. He has protected. He will not stop.

 What do we do? Trust. Breathe and remember who this Jesus is whom we say we believe in and lean into Him. Fully. Right now.

Personal example: Last week we mentors thought we were going to have to meet in the same community building as the rowdy young cub scouts on Wednesday nights. Even though they are assigned the bigger room, our two smaller rooms off to the side of the big room was not going to be large enough for the number of moms and their children we were expecting.

Had we prayed over this change in rooms? You better believe it! And then we reluctantly left it up to the Lord, trusting more in His name and character than in our distraught feelings. And we went on with our lives

I met a gentleman Tuesday afternoon when I went to see those two rooms again and try to visualize how we would manage. He greeted me at the entrance of the community building and when he heard about the single moms ministry, he suggested I talk to the church receptionist one more time and explain that the cub scouts would truly be dominating in size and sound each Wednesday night.

I returned to the receptionist with fellow mentors who met me in the parking lot, and she graciously put us back in our room upstairs along with the room next door for our children this fall. We thanked her profusely. She had realized she could give us those spaces and still have spaces for new adult Bible Studies that would be taking place the same night.

“You have not ’cause you ask not” Lonnie Hayter, Baptist Student Union Director in the dark ages of the 70’s at Baylor University!

adult arms lifted

Believing in and trusting in HIM.

Our provider. No matter what.

Eyes off our circumstances. Focus on Him.

“He must increase. I must decrease.” John 3:30

Father in heaven, forgive me when I forget to remember how much you love me and want to provide for me. Help me to trust you for every single detail of my life and to delight in depending on You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.