Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bible Study: Practicing sacrificial love

Romans 15:17
Ephesians 5:1-2
Rejoicing in the opportunity to love
I was feeling worn out a couple months ago, my body being used up to nourish my unborn baby. As many benefits as there are to having children, there is still an undeniable toll on a mother's body. Yet, is that necessarily a bad thing? Spiritually, we learn to love like Christ when it is difficult, not when it is easy. When it takes an effort on our part, demands something of us, comes at a price, then we are demonstrating toward others the love that Christ Jesus demonstrated toward us. We might begin through God's grace by loving those we are naturally inclined toward, such as the child nurtured in the womb. He calls us to love everyone we encounter with this type of love, but He might allow us to practice first with individuals we would love anyway with a selfish love. I doubt it was in God's original plan for humanity that a mother's body should suffer for the sake of each unborn child. Yet it could be a blessing rather than a curse, or at least a curse transformed into a blessing when we see it as an opportunity to live the same kind of sacrificial love toward others that Christ lived toward us.
How is your love toward another human causing you to suffer today? Whether in your health, your pocketbook, your career, or in some other way, the sacrifices you are making are a limited imitation of the sacrificial love of Christ and as such can help you share His message to the world.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bible Study: Changes we would never expect

Romans 15:16
Acts 9:1-16
Whatever the young man Saul planned to become when he grew up, I'm fairly certain he did not expect to be a traveling evangelist for Christ. God's plan for him was different from his own. The Lord caught him by surprise when the time was right and changed his future forever.
We're always making plans for our futures, aren't we? A certain amount of planning is wise; I don't believe God wants us to use His propensity to change things up on us as an excuse to avoid commitments. Yet He sees many things which we do not and adjusts our course in life in ways we would never expect. Two years ago at a June retreat He spoke to both my husband and myself about being open to a radical change in our lives. He didn't tell us what that radical change was. Missionaries? Adoption? An entirely new career? A big move? A new service? We said yes individually and together, then waited to hear further instructions. Neither of us expected the change to be two babies arriving the next two years, preventing us from attending that retreat again. What will the next step be? Only the Lord knows so far. He will reveal it, I know, when the time is right, and give us the grace we need to carry out His will. [I'm willing if it's Your will, Lord, but please don't be offended when I say I hope it's not a third baby next June! Not that I don't appreciate the gifts You've given...] Maybe a larger house; a few years of simply raising our children; some new or deeper friendships.
It's often much easier to appreciate the changes the Lord makes in retrospect. Paul never seemed to regret the change in his life course. He speaks of his role as apostle with full ownership of his mission, not with any nostalgia for the time when he was known as Saul. Perhaps you notice that in your own life as you look back at the things that have taken place instead of what might have been if the Lord had left you to your own resources. Acknowledging and thanking Him for those positive changes can make it easier to welcome any new paths He leads you on in the future. At least, it helps me when I face changes I'm not sure I'm prepared for.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bible Study: Correcting weakness in others

Romans 15:15
Matthew 5:43-48
My children have terrible table manners. If I left them to their own devices they would find it perfectly acceptable to kick, squirm, blow bubbles, show off their chewed up food, throw food, etc. Rather than leave them to their games I choose to correct their poor choices, knowing that their behavior at the table has an impact now (who wants to be a guest at a home where flying food might land on you??) and in the future (business lunches; dates; roommates; social gatherings).
First Paul assures his readers that he has the utmost confidence in their goodness, then he explains why he is willing to be the one to correct their weaknesses. They might have been content on their own to remain in their status quo. They might not have grown up in the right direction; they might not have known what or how to change; they might not have listened to just anyone correcting their actions. Nor would it have been appropriate for just anyone to correct them. But Paul is their spiritual father with authority from the Lord Himself over the Christians he is writing to. He has the calling from God making it right for him to tell them what to keep and what to change. It probably wasn't easy for them to receive his correction, but he has their best in mind. Their actions have an impact on their present (their positive or negative witness to the non-Christians they come into contact with) and their future (eternity). He knows they are called by Christ to become perfect, he is in a position of authority over them, and he loves them enough to say what might be uncomfortable for them to hear.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Heritage: Poetry

by Maria, age 7
Rain and shine I sing, sing, sing, 
With happiness and sadness and madness and gladness.
And I sing and I sing and I sing.
I sing.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bible Study: Source of strength

Romans 15:14
Acts 2:1-4
3yr old Reese learning to work WITH her father
and accomplishing more than she could have on her own
Some days I don't feel very competent. I don't feel competent enough to call myself a Christian, let alone instruct others, including (especially?) my children. Full of goodness? Filled with knowledge? Sadly, these are often not the case. The key to my competency or lack thereof lies securely in who I am depending on. If I am my own source of strength, I will fail in every area of my life, but especially in my ability to love others. The limit to what I am capable of is MUCH lower when I depend upon myself. Only when I rely upon the Lord can I fulfill His commandments. Only then can I give more than I have, for He is the one providing all that I need.
All too often I insist on doing it all myself, like a toddler intent on learning a new skill. Unfortunately, my determination produces about the same results as that toddler, not helping me become perfect like the Lord wants me to be (Mt 5:48). I need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, who will enable me to accomplish all that God asks of me.
Linked with Works for Me Wednesday

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bible Study: Hope for our now

Romans 15:13
Lamentations 3:19-26
AS HMAS Canberra 1.jpg
image credit
The circumstances of our lives might be awful. We might wish they were different. Yet our hope is in the Lord both for our eternity and for our now. While it's comparatively easy to hope in the Lord for eternity, to trust His word that someday when this life is over we will be with Him, the real struggle is to hope in Him today, for our present lives.
Life can be very discouraging. I know that I give in far too easily to the feeling that all is lost. Yet it is when our circumstances are the most difficult that our faith moves beyond lip-service to reality. It is when we struggle to hope that our success in doing so becomes believable. We hope in the Lord that someday He will return and show Himself the victor over the enemy. We hope in the Lord that He will fulfill His word to bring us to Himself at the end of our lives. But we also hope in the Lord to bring good out of the terrible conditions we live in. We hope in the Lord that He knows what He is doing despite our incomplete perspective seeming to contradict His word. We hope in the Lord to bring us through, clinging to Him when we cannot carry ourselves. We hope in the Lord because we realize that our circumstances would carry us to places we don't want to go so we hold fast to the One who will keep us exactly where we need to be despite every attack against us.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Heritage: More freezinger than freezing

She enjoyed the whipped cream from her first birthday cake
more than the cake itself. An edible plaything: what's not
to love??
After playing in our sprinkler and drinking a cold smoothie, Maria announced that she had become cold. More precisely,: "More freezinger than freezing."
Maria has a heart for mission and a gift of generosity. And one of her love languages is gift giving. Her sister Reese does not hold back from taking advantage of that. I recently heard them making plans for what Maria could buy for her younger sister. Reese was egging her on, fully decided that she would spend all her own money on herself and all her sister's money also on herself. Maria seems to be fine with that plan. Somehow a good deal of Maria's candy from special occasions ends up in Reese's stash and gifted to Daddy, yet Reese's never makes its way into Maria's stash. Reese doesn't see any inequality in this as she pours out love in abundance in other ways, such as quality time. If her sister chooses to give her presents, well, who is she to refuse?
The high school youth group we support may someday benefit from the efforts of a talented young fundraiser. Maria has plans to make various crafts and sell them at a "lemonade stand", donating all the proceeds to the youth group and their mission trips. Reese thinks that's a great plan for raising money. So her idea is to use the same strategy in our front yard, but keep the money for herself and become independently wealthy. The youth group doesn't factor into her plans unless she decides to use some of the money to go on a mission trip herself.
I love watching Princess respond to her big sisters and her Daddy. She has a LOT of love to give to those who are important to her. She may not understand much of the activities Maria and Reese are involved in, but she is certain that if they like it, then she will too. This leads to some frustration all around since the big sister are 6 and 4.5 years older than her, but a beautiful sunbeam smile from Princess when they are able to include her in their activity. And when Daddy enters the room...oh my. She gets so excited to see him!