Martha, Moses and Smorgasbords

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Smorgasbords have popped into my head recently. We all know smorgasbords are buffets offering a variety of foods. Salads are first and there are numerous things to choose from. Then comes the entrees, meats of different varieties, potatoes, vegetables, and then our favorite – desserts. Oh, and don’t forget the many types of bread, biscuits, and rolls we can choose. We usually pay one price and then go back as often as we like.
 
A new term has popped into my head, “smorgasbord people”. Now when you hear that term people are often referring to people who pick and choose what they want to believe in when it comes to the bible. They pick what they want to hear and digest it. What they don’t like from the bible they often dismiss it and go on by. That’s the way we do smorgasbords. We get all the things we like and those things we don’t like we walk by.
 
Some people are picky eaters and it’s easy for them to walk by the foods they don’t like and the foods they like, they get all they can. There are some people who like and will eat everything. They have a hard time choosing what they will eat. These folks want it all. They can’t resist.
 
This brings me to a more personal problem. When going to a smorgasbord, I usually chow down on the food I like. It’s easy for me to pass on the food that I am not crazy about. I pick and choose when it comes to the food I want to eat and digest. Until of course, it comes to the loaves of bread or the desserts. Then watch out. I want it all.
 
One of the problems for me going to a smorgasbord is I eat until I am miserable. I don’t know when to stop. That is the problem with a lot of people going to smorgasbords. They eat until their miserable.
 
Thinking about my faith, I realize I am a smorgasbord person. Unfortunately, I am also one of those people who like it all. I want it all and I want to do it all. I can’t pick and choose when it comes to acting out my faith. Let me explain.
 
There are so many opportunities when you become a Christian. You can choose to do ministry, you can choose to do mission work, you can choose to serve in the community or in church or a number of other places needing help. There are smorgasbords of opportunities for where and how you can serve. Now, this is not a problem if you are able to be a picky (in a good sense) Christian. If you are lucky enough to be able to choose what you want to do then you are good at smorgasbords, but if you are like me, you want to do it all. First, I must say, I don’t want to do it all because I think I am the only one capable of doing it all or doing it right. I believe others have much more talent than I do and can do so many things better than I can. That’s not my problem. My problem is everything looks inviting. Everything looks so enjoyable. (Again it’s not because I like the honor or want to get all the glory) I just like being in service and doing God’s work. Now there is nothing wrong with doing God’s work and being in service. But, remember when I said we can eat so much we become stuffed and feel miserable? That’s the way it can be with us and being in service to God. We have to choose balance. We have to be able to pick those things God wants us to do and to move on. We have to move past those things that look enticing to us and follow God’s leading. We can’t have it all and we can’t do it all.
 
I was recently reminded of the Mary and Martha story.
“She [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 
But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, 
‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ 
And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and
 troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary 
has chosen that good part, which will not be taken from her’ ” (Luke 10:39-42).
 
We always look down on Martha for not wanting to be with Christ and for being a busybody. I see it differently. She was like me. Being in service was enticing, exciting and she basically enjoyed it. I don’t think (at least for me) it’s not so much about not being with Christ as it is being in service to Christ. We just forget that it’s just as important to be with Christ as it is to be in service with Christ. He does want us to be in service with him, but there are times we just need to stop and be with Him. I don’t think Christ wanted Martha to stop helping others, he just wanted time with her.
 
When we are so busy doing for Christ that we can’t be with him, it also takes a toll on our health; both mentally and physically. I often tell people, if you aren’t physically or mentally well then you are no good to God or anyone else. You have to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. That may mean as you look at the smorgasbord of opportunities to serve you may need to pass on some of them. I have to remember Moses did not go out and look for the burning bush. God brought it to him. If God has work for us he will bring it to us. We do not need to go out and look for work.
 
The other problem I have, and I will be the first to admit this, is I am a people pleaser. I do not want to disappoint people. I love people. I love making people happy. So, you ask me to do something and because I don’t want to disappoint you I will go out of my way to do it for you. I have to be reminded often of this scripture, Galatians 1:10, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If all we do is seek the approval of our friends and when we become so consumed with seeking approval we cannot always please God. There are times people will put undue pressure or burdens on us. These folks have figured out if they come to you first, you will always say yes and then their job is done. Instead of looking for the person Christ wants in that position.  It is best to always pray to see if God is leading you in that particular direction. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to say no. You may disappoint them, but God is never disappointed in us.
 
Smorgasbords are great if you know how to handle them. Smorgasbords are great if you have the ability to walk away before you feel over stuffed. Smorgasbords are not so good if you can’t say no. God has given us a smorgasbord way for us to serve. It’s not for us to do it all instead it’s opportunities to seek his will for your life. He gives it to us because we are all different and he knows we need to serve in different ways. If you give him a chance he will tell you what you are to do and he will lead you away from the things you shouldn’t be doing.
 
Being Martha isn’t bad. Just like her, we need balance in our lives. We should follow the example of Moses and not be out looking for our burning bush, but let it come to us. Finally, we need to remember it’s not about pleasing people; it’s about pleasing God and following the path he has for us.
 
As a side note, someone asked me recently to take on something else. I said yes without hesitation. After a friend sought me out and talked to me, I listened to what God was telling me. I called my friend and politely told her I was not able to do the thing she asked me to do. I may be a slow learner, but I might just be getting it.
 
How are you doing? What kind of smorgasbord eater are you? Are you a Martha, a Moses? Are you a people pleaser? Can you say no when God wants you to? These are all questions we have to answer and deal with. I pray for you as you discern what God is telling you.
 
Dear God: we’ve had this discussion so many times. I realize now why you have given us so many ways for us to serve. It’s not for us to do it all, but to be able to discern what it is you want us to do and then go after that one thing. While we digest one thing and we serve one-way others have different opportunities to serve in other ways. Help me as I deal with being a Martha. Let me be more like a Moses. Remind me I can’t please everyone all the time and while I can’t win the approval of everyone I must seek to be in one accord with you. Amen
 
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The Cellist and the Conductor

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I was recently in a church worship service. The handbells were playing along with a guest Cellist. It was a beautiful service. I love listening to the handbells and the added cello was a treat.
 
As I watched the cellist play his cello, I was fascinated. The handbell director is a choir director and an orchestra conductor. This cellist plays in his orchestra. I am sure he has played for many years and would be considered a professional.
 
All of that to say this: as he played he kept an eye on his music and the conductor. He was familiar enough with the instrument he never looked at it. As professional as he was, he still watched his conductor. Now there were times he would look at the music and not watch the conductor, but before too long he would turn his eyes toward the conductor and watch. I believe he was watching the conductor as he leads not only the handbells but the cellist as well. The cellist needed to know when to play and the direction the conductor wanted him to go.
 
This, of course, got me to thinking about my own spiritual walk with God. Just like the cellist focused on the sheet music, there are times I need to focus on the words God has given me. Whether it is my own personal bible study, bible study at church or in a group. The cellist had to be familiar and study the music in order to understand and to perform well. I cannot understand my walk and perform well if I don’t study the words God has given me. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” This passage reminds us the scriptures are useful for teaching and training. I need to be taught and trained in the ways of God and I can only do that when I study the word of God. As the cellist started out long ago, I am sure as he studied the music, there were times he had to be corrected. As a young Christian, many years ago, I needed correcting as I read the scripture. The scriptures would open my eyes to things I was not doing correctly.
 
2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” We are to be diligent and accurate. How can we be accurate if we don’t know the words of God? In order to share the good news with others, we have to be accurate and not lead them in the wrong direction or give them wrong information. In order to be accurate, we need to be diligent. It is only through hard work and really studying do we begin to understand the words of God. The more we read and understand the more accurate we become.
 
The cellist also would occasionally look at the conductor. We need to not only understand, read and study the scriptures we also need to keep our eyes on our conductor: God. By watching the conductor the cellist knew when to play and when to stop. He was following the conductor’s lead and allowing the conductor to lead him. That is what we must do. We must follow God to see what we are to do when we are to rest in him and then follow him as he leads us down the path he wants us to take. The cellist could only look at the music and never look up at the conductor, but I am sure if he did there would be times the cellist would make a mistake. We need to not only read the Bible but need to keep our eyes focused on God. By focusing and watching God, we will understand fully the scriptures and what it is God is really saying to us. God will give us wisdom and better understanding if we allow him to lead us. The cellist could have spent all his time looking at the conductor and never looking at the sheet music, but again if he did that, I am not sure it would have sounded nearly as good. He had to know the music in order to be led. We can’t spend all our time focusing on God and never opening our Bibles. God uses the Bible as a guide and a road map to where he wants us to go. Hebrews 12:2 “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”
 
This cellist has played for several years. I am sure he is a professional and top notch in his field. Yet, he still watched his sheet music and watched the conductor. He knew the importance of both following the sheet music and watching the conductor. This was a reminder that no matter how long I have considered myself a Christian, it is still important for me to follow the bible and to keep my eyes on God. I will never be good enough not to follow along in the bible or watch the conductor. When we get to the point we think we have read the bible too many times, we know what it means and says, and, we slack off of our diligence of reading and studying the bible, Satan comes in and messes with our minds. We play the wrong keys or we start when we should have stopped or whatever. The cellist never thought he was so good that he didn’t need to watch the conductor. I must remain humble and allow myself to keep my eyes on God. I can never allow myself to think I am good enough to turn away even for a second.
 
There was a happy balance between watching the sheet music and the conductor. The end result was a beautiful piece of work. If we maintain a happy balance between studying the scriptures and keeping our eyes on God then what the end result will be is a life with God that ends as beautifully as the piece of musical work did.
 
We can be like the cellist, keeping our eyes on the word of God and our conductor or we can choose to play the way we want. In the end, isn’t a beautiful piece of work what we long for? That’s what we will get if we follow the example of the cellist.
 
 
Dear God, thank you for the talent you have allowed this cellist to have. Thank you for his willingness to study the music, follow along and watch the conductor. It’s a lesson that we all need to be reminded of. Help us as we study your word and keep our eyes on you. Help us as we strive for a healthy balance so in the end a beautiful piece will be produced through you. Amen
 

There Is Nothing I Can Do and Neither Can You

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I was doing my devotion this morning and I came across something that stirred up within me! How grateful I am for our God!
 
I was reminded this morning that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We cannot work long enough hours in the ministry or evangelize; we cannot work hard enough at those things to save ourselves. I follow rules. Give me a rule and I am the one most likely to follow it. However, I can’t follow all the rules in the Bible. I am human. I am not perfect nor will I ever be perfect; I will inevitably fail. Because I can’t follow rules perfectly I am not able to save myself. I am pretty sure you are in the same boat; you can’t save yourself. God didn’t intend for us to. If we could work long enough or hard enough or if we could follow all the rules perfectly, we wouldn’t have needed a Savior. God knew what we needed and he provided.
 
Roy Lessin wrote this and it’s so true: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.”  God gave us the one thing he knew we needed the most: His Son.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16  

God knows we don’t deserve this gift, but because he loves us so much and is not wanting any of us to perish, he sent his son to die in our place for our sins. His Son took on our sin so we may have life.
 
This brings us to grace. We know grace is God’s unmerited favor that he gave to us by sending his son to die on the cross. Unmerited means not adequately earned nor deserved. We cannot do enough and we don’t deserve it. All of us have sinned; every one of us. Romans 3:23 says this, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” 
We have all experienced grace in one form or another. For instance, as children, every one of us at some time has disappointed our parents. We didn’t do everything we were expected to do, didn’t follow the rules perfectly and did things that didn’t make them happy. We let them down. Most of us have experienced grace through our parents. Even though we didn’t always deserve their love, they still loved us. They never walked away from us. The love they had for us continued on through our wrong doings. They showered us with their love even when we didn’t deserve it. That’s what God did, only he went one step farther and sent his son to take on our punishment and to bear our sins.
 
Because God sent his son as an atonement for our sins does not give us the excuse to keep on sinning and expect God to keep on forgiving. At some point, we have to turn from our wicked ways and follow him. Ezekiel 18:27 reminds us, “Again when a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life.” We must turn around and walk in the ways of the Lord.
 
When we stop and really think about God sending his son to save us from all we deserve and think about grace, we can’t help but spend time in praise and thankfulness. As we turn into adults, we often go back and thank our parents for being a little rough on us and for some of the punishment we have received from them. We often tell them we are better people because of how they raised us. If we are raised up in God’s family there might be times when things seem a little rough, but in the end, we will know we will walk away better Christians because of God’s love for us.
 
God didn’t have to do what he did, but he did because he loved us. He loved us so much he grabbed us out of Satan’s reach and we are now held tightly in His hands. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28) If you have come to Christ, you know you are in God’s grip and nothing or nobody will ever take you from him. You are his!
 
We will soon be headed into Thanksgiving and a time for being thankful. This should be on the top of our list of things we should be thankful for. Take that thanksgiving for what God has done for you and turn it into praise and worship for the One who did what we could not do for ourselves.
 
God is good all the time; All the time God is good!
 
Dear God, thank you that I don’t have to work to death or work long hard hours to do something that is impossible for me to do. Thank you that even though I can’t follow all the rules all the time I am not lost. Thank you for your Son who was willing to come and be an atonement for my sins. Thank you that he was willing to take on my sin and receive the punishment I deserved and he did it out of love. Thank you for grace. I want to praise your name and give you all the honor that is rightly deserved. I want to take that praise and turn it into worshiping you. Help me to turn from my wicked ways and follow you all the days of my life. Thank you for holding on to me so tight nothing can snatch me from your hands. In all these things I pray Amen.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Glasses

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One day last week I was thinking about how we should see through the eyes of Jesus and not our own when God gave me a perfect example. I’d like to share that with you.
 
Many of us either wear glasses or contact lenses or at the very least sunglasses. For me, I am blind if I don’t have my glasses on. When I am without my glasses things are a bit blurry and I am not able to see clearly. Once I put on my glasses, I can see things clearly. I need my glasses to be able to read, follow directions and all the other normal things we do in this life. Sometimes, even when I have glasses on, things are a bit blurry and I wonder why. A very simple reason, there are fingerprints or spots on my glasses. I have to wipe away those spots so I can see clearly once again.
 
That is the same way it is with our faith. Before we became Christians, it was like we were living without glasses. We could see things, but not as clear as we should be able to see. Things were a bit blurry for us. We could see, but it was not a clear picture. We were stumbling around. We weren’t getting the clear picture.
 
When we came before God and confessed our sin, he gave us a pair of glasses to put on in which to see clearly. When we began our walk with God, we were able to see clearly the path that we needed to take. We could see others through the glasses as God sees them. Things became clearer to us; not perfect for we will never see perfectly well until we are face to face with God, but things began to come into focus. “It is the same with us. Now we see a dim reflection as if we were looking into a mirror, but then we shall see clearly. Now I know only a part, but then I will know fully, as God has known me.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) Even with glasses on, I still can’t see perfectly. I can see only as well as the glasses are able. But, when we come into God’s presence we will see perfectly. I see so much better when I have my glasses on. When we walk with Christ we may not be able to see perfectly, but we are able to see so much better. Instead of seeing people through our own eyes we see them through the glasses God has given us.
 
Even as Christians sometimes we lose clarity and our eyesight gets a little blurry. Why is that if we are looking through God’s glasses? It’s because we have allowed sin spots to block our vision. We allow the thoughts of the world, the thoughts of others or sin to come in and mess up our glasses. We can’t see clearly until we once again ask for forgiveness and allow God to wipe away those spots that temporary blind us. I love my glasses after I have been to the eye doctor and allowed them to clean my glasses. I can see so much better, but then through everyday wear and tear, spots get on my glasses and I have to wipe them off again. We are to confess our sins daily so we may see clearly the path God has called us on.
 
My husband has had surgery for cataracts. He no longer needs glasses except to read. Basically, he picks and chooses when he wants to wear them. There are some Christians who pick and choose when they wear the glasses God gives them. If it benefits them, if it makes them look good they choose to wear the glasses God has given them. If they choose to follow the ways of the world, or if the glasses open their eyes to a certain sin in their lives sometimes they choose to take off the glasses. Sometimes Christians are content to walk in a blurry world.
 
Some folks have wonderful vision and wear nothing more than sunglasses. Sunglasses we know blocks out the light and the sun if it is too bright. Unfortunately, we have people who wear sunglasses all the time. They do not want to be blinded by God’s light or his Son’s light so they wear glasses to block the light. This is an unfortunate circumstance. Not only does God’s light shine down on us, but so does his love. If the glasses they are wearing blocks the light it is also blocking his love. They will never experience the Son’s light or the warmth of God’s love. They prefer to live in darkness. We also know that is where Satan lives; in darkness. These folks live in darkness and cannot see anything as bright or as brilliant as God’s light. All they see is the darkness that surrounds them.
 
Psalm 119:18 says this, “Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your instructions.” One of God’s instructions is to love your neighbor as yourself. We should all be putting God’s glasses on and asking him to open our eyes to see all he has for us not only in the Bible but in those around us. We all need to wear these glasses daily and not just at our own choosing. We need to take off those glasses that is keeping the light from getting into us.
 
I always hated wearing glasses, but I think after this lesson it will be a good reminder that it’s through these glasses I can see better and it’s through God’s glasses that I can see to love those around me. It will also be a good reminder that every now and then I need to take my glasses and get rid of the smudges left on because I mishandled my glasses. It will remind me I need to ask God to help me remove the smudges that sin has left behind.
 
Glasses…something we have all had to deal with at one time or another; even if it was only sunglasses. I hope like me you will put on God’s glasses and let’s begin to see each person as a created image made after God’s likeness.
 
My glasses need a bit of a cleaning, how about yours?
 
Dear God thank you for the glasses I was given to help me see clearly. Thank you for salvation that helps me see clearly. When things get blurry again remind me it’s time to come to you and ask for a cleansing of not only my eyes but my soul too. Open my eyes that I may see your Son’s light and experience his love so that I may share it with others. Amen.  

The Piece of the Puzzle

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I have just finished my last major project for the year. I am headed into some downtime. My husband has a trip planned and is leaving for Colorado on an elk hunt. All that being said, I decided I would enjoy doing a picture puzzle while he was gone. My husband graciously bought me one.
 
I started my picture last night. As always I got out the sides and put them together. I began to find pieces that looked alike and started on one particular area. I wasn’t sure how they went together or where in the picture they were going to fit in; I just knew these pieces belonged together. I knew in the end when all the puzzle came together it would need this particular area to finish it and make it look complete.
 
As I lay in bed after pulling myself away from the puzzle, God began to nudge me as he always does with thoughts about the puzzle I was putting together.
 
I was reminded my life is like that puzzle. Over the many years I have lived, I have had numerous events, circumstances, and experiences. These all came together as each little piece and connected to each other.
 
God showed me all the events, circumstances and experiences are pieces to a picture he has been creating since I was born. People have added to my puzzle and became pieces in my puzzle.
 
There are pieces in my puzzle I am not sure how it fits in or where it fits. I am not sure how some of these pieces are connected to the whole big picture. As I work on this puzzle a little more each day, I might have a better understanding of how and where some pieces fit.
 
That’s the way it is with our lives. We look at a circumstance, event or an experience and wonder how this fits into our lives. We wonder how it will enhance or change your life. As we get older, some things make perfect sense to us while other events, circumstances or experiences just doesn’t make sense to us. We can’t understand why we had to live through some of the things we lived through. People will come into our lives. Some people leave our lives. People are woven into our lives like fabric. Some will have a profound effect on our lives while others we may not even remember. How do these people play a role in our picture? How do these pieces fit into the overall picture of our lives?
 
Our lives are a puzzle that God has created and the last piece of the puzzle will never be added until God has called us home. Every new day, week and year pieces are being added to our puzzle. Some fit nicely; others are waiting for a connection that God has not given us yet.
For instance, we may experience death or an illness early on in our life. We don’t see how the piece fits into the bigger picture. We live our lives, keep adding pieces, but this one piece doesn’t fit anywhere. Then one day, someone we know or love may experience a death or an illness much like we did years earlier. We are given the chance to connect with them and help them through what we have been through. The piece then becomes connected and it becomes a part of the bigger picture. Sometimes I think things happen and we may never know why they happened. In that case, God will connect all the pieces in the end and you can be well assured your life will be a complete and beautiful picture.
 
The picture puzzle I am doing is a Thomas Kincaid. I love his works. I never wanted to spend the kind of money it takes to own one. Now I have one of his works in a puzzle. It is beautiful. It is a water scene with a church and some cabins in it. If you know me you know how important water is to me. It is beautiful.
 
Our lives may look like a bunch of scrambled pieces right now. We can’t see how things fit together. When the last piece has been added we wonder if it will all make sense. We wonder if our lives will be as beautiful as we’d like them to be.
 
I am here to tell you God formed you in his being. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” You are created and made into God’s image how can you be anything but beautiful?
 
Some of the puzzles I looked at to buy was not something I would enjoy doing. They were jumbled pieces and not pleasant to the eye. If we are living out of sync with God our picture, in the end, could look jumbled and not be pleasant. It could be confusing and disorienting.
 
When we live lives that are in accordance with God’s will and we are doing those things he has called us to do, the bigger picture when our life is over will be filled with beauty and love. For we know God is love. 1 John 4:8 reminds us, “Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.”
 
Finally, we know that whatever or whomever God creates it is a very good thing. “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!…” Genesis 1:31
 
If you have accepted God, you have become part of a bigger picture. You are a piece of the puzzle that God has created. Each piece is a picture of God’s adopted children. Each piece is connected to one another. When God adds the last piece and you are added it will be a picture that will tell of God’s love for each of us.
 
I may be doing a Thomas Kinkade picture and I will think it is beautiful, but it won’t compare to the picture God is putting together that displays his family. Don’t be a missing piece.
 
Dear God, thank you for the time when we can do those things that relax us and brings enjoyment. Help me to understand my life is like a puzzle piece and it may not all make sense until you add the final piece. Let me be content knowing I have been made in your image, I have been accepted into God’s family and the big picture will be as beautiful as God meant it to be. Help me to add pieces to God’s family by inviting others to become a part of it all. Amen
 

Shiphrah, Puah and Irena

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I have the opportunity and the privilege to teach young people on Wednesday afternoons at our church. This year we are learning about bible stories. Now I thought I was up on all my bible stories, but here’s the thing, the curriculum we are using is telling stories of people you might not even know or circumstances you have just passed over.
 
For instance, who can tell me who Shiphrah and Puah is? I couldn’t even pronounce the names let alone remember who they were. As I was studying, I now realize, I have read this story several times, but I have missed one of the most important lessons in the Bible. I will remember these names forever. Their story has left an impact on my own life.
 
We find their story in Exodus. Follow along with me. “The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.” Exodus 1:15-21
 
These two women were called in to speak to the king of Egypt. They were summoned to be exact. This is not something they requested to do. After being summoned, the King then asks these women to do the unthinkable; to kill baby boys. I am not sure, but I think all women have a mother instinct in them. I can’t imagine being asked to kill babies after losing on myself. They were pretty clever. If they said no, I am thinking the King would take their lives. He would not take kindly to women who refused to obey him. So, I am thinking the women said yes and at the same time began to devise a plan not to take the lives of babies. I am not sure they knew who God was, but I am sure they knew right from wrong and this was wrong in every sense of the word.
 
These women saved the baby boys that were being born at this time. They refused to obey the King and they did what they knew was right. Now comes the King again. Finding out these babies were being kept alive, he called Shiphrah and Puah back. He asks them why they weren’t killing the babies. They probably have discussed this before the King summons them back in and they have a very reasonable answer to give to the King. Apparently, he was okay with their answer. He didn’t have them killed and he didn’t punish them.
 
After that something amazing happens. God blesses them with their own families. God sees what good they have done and he rewards and blesses them. Pretty neat story huh?
 
The lesson for the children that day was that compassion and courage go hand in hand. Showing compassion takes some courage on our part. The other part of this lesson was to make the children understand that sometimes doing the right thing can actually mean breaking the laws.
 
As I was working on this, I found another unfamiliar name. Read about this lady: Irena Sendler. An unfamiliar name to most people, but this remarkable woman defied the Nazis and saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. As a health worker, she sneaked the children out between 1942 and 1943 to safe hiding places and found non-Jewish families to adopt them. She did the right thing but was breaking the law.
 
I emphasized to the kids that sometimes we are called on as Christians to do the right thing even though it is against a law or rule. To get it down to the kids level, I used this example. A friend comes to you who is being mistreated or abused at home. They confide in you but tell you not to say anything to anyone. They may even go as far as make you promise or command you not to tell anyone. I told the children in this case they needed to do the right thing for their friend, even if it meant breaking the promise or the command. Showing compassion for their friend and being courageous by telling someone who could help the friend.
 
I wanted to share this with you because of the many things that are going on right now. We never know when we will be called upon to do the right thing. There may be a law that we might not agree with. This law might be destroying the lives of those who are powerless to do anything about it. It’s up to us as Christians to follow the commands Christ has given us and to step in and help when we can. God will be with us just like he was with Shiphrah and Purah.
 
The other emphasis I want to add is this: sometimes it is better to do the right thing than to do what the world tells us we ought to be doing. There is so much chatter in the world today about what we should be doing, what we should be protesting or how to live our lives. I think for each of us it’s time we turn to God for those answers. It’s time to be a Shiphrah and Puah and have the courage and the compassion to do what God has called us to do instead of following the world. If this world is ever going to turn around, it’s because we had compassion on those who are powerless. If we turn the world around it will be because we were courageous enough to tell the world I will only do what is right in God’s eyes not because you think I should do this or that.
 
We do not know what the future holds for each of us. We do not know if someday we will be called in to do the right thing even if it’s against the rules or the laws. As a volunteer, I have a set of guidelines I am to follow when helping people. There are times I have to set aside those guidelines and do what’s best for those clients I am helping with. When we find ourselves in those places I hope you remember the courage and compassion of Shiphrah and Puah and even Irena Sendler.
 
Dear God: I hope I am given the courage to help people when I am called upon. I hope compassion wins over the world’s view and beliefs. Show me where and how I can make a difference in someone’s life. Teach me to be courageous and compassionate like Shiphrah and Puah and Irena. Thank you for giving me these particular ladies as an example to follow. Thank you for blessing them and watching out for them. Amen
 
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Confessions Are Never Easy!

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Confessions are never easy for me and this is one of those times. This is a time when I tell you I don’t always do what I encourage you to do. I try to encourage you in your walk with Christ just to find out I don’t always listen to my own advice.
 
First, you must know I am a people pleaser. I do whatever I can to make people happy. I don’t like confrontation and I don’t know how to say no. My family will be the first to tell you I can’t say the word and I probably don’t know what it means.
 
So with all that being said, a few months back I was approached by one of the Staff where I volunteer. She started out by saying she knew my abilities and my love for the organization and asked if I would be willing to take on some additional responsibilities. The responsibilities at the time didn’t seem like it amounted to much. I agreed to take on some additional responsibilities.
 
As the summer progressed I added more and more to these responsibilities. I was helping the Director and the Office Manager get things done they weren’t able to find time to do. A couple of times the Director asked me if I was ok with all I was doing. I just smiled and gave her the assurance I was doing fine. She said to me, “if you ever feel overwhelmed let me know.” I assured her I would.
 
To make a long story short we are jumping ahead several months. I have been very task oriented. I have been busy getting everything done everybody needed me to get done. I was focused and I was accomplishing much. There was only one problem.
 
I began to take a class at church about my spiritual gifts, abilities, and talents. As I went through the sessions I began to feel God speak to me about how I had less and less time to serve in the church. I was beginning to wonder how I could begin to squeeze anything more into my schedule.
 
A few days later I spoke with my Pastor about my spiritual gifts and how I could use them in the church. I admitted to him I was feeling like I had lost my place in the church and was being consumed by my much-loved organization. This organization is ministry based and serves our community well. We saw a place I could easily slip into. That would mean giving up time and some responsibilities at this organization.
 
I went home and fretted. How could I possibly squeeze one more thing into my already jammed packed days and weeks? Finally, realizing there was nothing more I could do, but to hand the situation over to Christ I fell asleep. I prayed about the situation in the morning before I headed off to volunteer one more time.
 
Before I even got into the building God began to answer my prayers. One of my most beloved dear friends came over to me as I got out of the car and apologized for something he thought he had done. He hadn’t done anything. I came to find out that because I had been so task-oriented I had not been speaking to him and our relationship was a bit strained. He thought he had done something. His comment was you’ve lost your joy. Wow! I hadn’t noticed because I was so focused on accomplishing things that I thought I was to be doing.
 
I get into the building and before long the Staff that had asked me to take on more responsibilities called me over to tell me we had to talk. She too informed me I had lost my joy and she could tell I had become overwhelmed with all I was doing. She apologized for putting so much on my plate and she was wrong to do that. She informed me that I was no longer to come in three days a week, but I was to cut back to one or two days. She took back some of my responsibilities. The day she gave me off was the same day I was thinking about volunteering at church. I was humbled that God had answered my prayer and the situation was worked out by God himself.
 
I will still be doing some work for this organization. I believe it is a worthwhile organization and worth the time I spend there. I really don’t think God wants me to leave there; at least not totally. What I do believe is I had focused on what I thought I was to do and not what God had intended me to do.
 
When I went to volunteer there it was to connect with the clients that come in every day. I was to pray, encourage and be there for them. I was to share scripture when I could. I was to share my joy of Christ and my love for Christ with them. I did that for a while, but then I got caught up in all of the other opportunities that came my way. I didn’t take the time to speak with God to see what I was to do.
 
Now for the meat of this. Sometimes God can give us a ministry or give us an opportunity to serve. It is a good thing that he gives us, but sometimes we can take that good thing and turn it around and make it an obsession instead of a ministry. For me, it wasn’t about pride. I wasn’t getting rewarded or necessarily praised for what I was doing. If anything it made me feel useful and helpful. I took that usefulness and helpfulness and I turned it into being task oriented while losing my joy for the ministry God gave me in the first place.
 
God had to rattle my cage, he brought good friends to me to tell me what I’d lost. I had lost the joy of ministry. I was serving with the intent on getting things done; not serving out of love or joy. As the day progressed I felt like the world had lifted off my shoulders. I felt a joy that I hadn’t felt for a long time and now I am able to serve my church in a ministry where I can do the work God has called me to do. I am to show mercy and kindness to others.
 
God will allow us to go along this path for just so long and if he doses n’t see the changes we need to make he will make them for us. He lets us go down a path that isn’t his choosing and then if we go too far down that path he will block our way or make the path weave back to him.
 
Serving God is never to be a job. It’s to be a ministry and a joy. When we lose our joy we need to stop what we are doing and seek answers from God and from others. “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10–11) Our joy will only be full if that joy comes from the Lord. That joy can’t come from ourselves by filling the emptiness or the desires of our own heart.
 
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,…” Galatians 5:22. If what we do does not produce any of the fruits of the Spirit then we need to stop and ask ourselves why we are doing those things.
 
One final thought: I disappointed our Director because I did not go to her and let her know I felt overwhelmed. We can not only disappoint God, but we can disappoint others. Those very people who we think we are serving will be disappointed in us because we are not doing it with joy from Christ but from obligation.
 
When God gives us a ministry it is not up to us to make it an obsession or turn it into something God did not mean for it to be. When we lose the joy of serving Christ or serving with joy when we become so task-oriented that it destroys our relationships with others it’s time to stop and evaluate what is being done.
 
I am so excited. God made the way clear for me to get back into the church and serve him where I am needed. He has not taken my beloved organization from me, but he’s allowed me to go back to serving with love and joy. My joy in Christ has come back and will be more vibrant over the next few months. God is an awesome God!
 
Dear God: Thank you for making the path wind back to you. You saw I was on the wrong path and when was getting out of your reach you came down and directed my ways back to you. Thank you for friends who can see us headed in the wrong direction and comes to us and helps us back to you. Thank you for Bible studies that remind us of our ministry, our mission and our goals. Most of all thank you for the opportunity to serve you with joy. May my joy be found complete in you. Guide my paths direct my ways always. Amen!
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