Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Greatest of These

Love God, love people.  Why do we go to church on Sunday mornings?  To worship God.  That is our purpose, the very reason for which we are created.  Love Him first.  Love others second.  How do we love others?  We become like them.  We change ourselves to meet them where they are in hopes of saving even a few.

I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  1 Corinthians 9:22

I can say from experience that this is much easier to do with an unsaved friend than an unsaved enemy.  Comparatively, it's easy - though at times painfully sacrificial - to become all things for a loved one if the end result might be their salvation.  But how do I become all things to a person who hates and rejects my very presence?  How do I find the desire to even attempt such a thing?  It's much more comfortable to simply pray for that soul and let God do all the work than it is to buck up and take responsibility for that which He's handed me.  Don't hear me wrong - prayer is still vital and only the Spirit can change a heart.  But I am not exempt from the process.  God has given, commanded me a task, and it is imperative I follow through. 

. . . . . . . . . .

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care...  1 Peter 5:2
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  Romans 12:6

The Spirit enables gifts in each believer, and with each gift comes the responsibility to nurture and use it for the glory of God.  Each believer also gains a responsibility of leadership in his or her respective area of gifting.  No gift is unimportant, and when all are functioning to their fullest capacity - from the pastor's sermon to the Sunday school teacher's lesson to the women washing dishes and men setting up tables - the body of Christ moves and lives and breathes in a beautiful and effective manner.  It brings glory to God and draws the lost and broken in to safety and protection.

Love God, love people.

Leaders are not silent.  They are strong and present and vocal when necessary...and always in a positive direction.  For so long I have believed my voice is not important.  And so many times I use my voice to complain or gossip or tear down.  Misuse and defeated silence bring destruction.  I am gifted, therefore I am a leader, therefore my voice is vital to the glory of God and the growth of the Body.

. . . . . . . . . .

Change is hard, but inevitable and necessary.  These thoughts are from this morning's sermon, given by a guest pastor.  Our pastor of fourteen years has been called to shepherd another flock, and our flock here is facing a great deal of uncertainty and emotion.  It would be easy to sit back and wait to see what changes occur, and then make my decisions accordingly.  But that is not the way of Christ nor His desire for the Body.  Instead, we stay active in using our gifts and encouraging others to do the same.  We do the jobs He has called us to do, and allow the Spirit to do His work in and through us.  So often we try to force the Spirit's work for Him, and in doing so we quench His holy fire.  And while we often elevate the pastor's gift of shepherding, and though some gifts are deemed "greater," the truth is that no gift is less important than another.  Each gift is divinely issued and equally necessary to bring glory to God, both individually and corporately.

Love God, love people.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Meet Me In Heaven

Her Christmas letter arrived this week, filled with news I'd already heard, but with a few more details not included in the prayer chain emails.  Since the first email came out I've thought of her often, usually whenever I hear someone say the word "cancer."  And I desire to touch base again...just one more time.

She and her husband opened their home to me almost ten years ago.  I learned to play guitar in their basement (for which they each deserve extra saint points), and watched her play dolls with the older granddaughter while I held the baby.  She let me use her kitchen to cook and bake, and would set a third place at the table so I could be a part of their meals.  I spent many evenings in their living room, simply enjoying their company.

We sat together on a sofa in the church foyer during an evening meeting, each soul present for the other as our beloved church body crumbled to the ground and nearly died.  Years later, when I returned for a visit at a church bonfire, she looked at me and said, "Do you even recognize this church anymore?  We are so much healthier now!"

Only a couple of years ago I sat behind her toward the front of the sanctuary as her church family prayed over her for healing from a cancerous spot on her lung.  After surgery, she received a clean bill of health and made an excellent recovery.

Now she faces Stage 4 colon cancer that has spread everywhere.  Chemo made her too sick, so she has chosen to forego the treatments in order to enjoy the life she has left.  My friend, with her sweet smile and gentle touch, beautiful on the inside and out, bravely staring death in the face.  Such a precious and valuable asset to the body of Christ.

Dying is a part of this life.  Sometimes death is easy to push aside, to not think about.  But when death hovers nearby, it has a way of bringing new perspective to life.  When it becomes personal, something happens inside.  The important things in life suddenly shine a little brighter.

I am sad to know my friend is dying.  But she loves Jesus and awaits the moment He takes her home.  There is a beautiful mystery in the death of a believer.  Where there is sorrow, joy abounds all the more.  Where there are tears, there is also gladness.  Where there is sadness, rejoicing pours forth.  Where there is an end, hope begins.  When death becomes personal and takes the dear saints from my life, my heart hurts and I cheer them on as though cheering runners crossing the finish line.  My soul cries out with all its might as they take their last steps in this world and burst forth into eternity.  And I feel longing in the depths of my own being to be in their shoes, to burst forth into beauty seen by no eye and conceived by no mind.

Praise Jesus for making the way!  In the words of my friend, "Please make sure you will meet me in Heaven."

See you soon, Marcene.  Whether here or there, I will see you soon.


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