Thinking of the countless Wednesday nights that I sat in a Bible Study in a school, in a classroom, in a church sanctuary. Thinking of my many pastor friends all over this nation that gather with their congregants to study God’s word in sanctuaries, classrooms, basements, etc. I keep wondering if one of them might be next. I keep thinking might we be next? I went to my office yesterday and sat in meetings all day – important meetings, kingdom meetings with people who I know care for me – but only one person in that office asked how my heart was as relates to what happened in South Carolina. Sadly, I was not surprised. Not an indictment on my colleagues, but an indicator of a bigger problem that is affecting this nation, especially the Body of Christ. We don’t see one another. We don’t love one another. We just live among one another, existing and tightly controlling when and how our paths might cross outside of the office or outside of the local church body. When will we have the courage to admit that we hate? When will we have the courage to admit that we overlook injustice because it is easier than facing it? When will we have the courage to admit that we don’t love equally across ethnic lines? We Have A Problem and if we’re not careful, it will carry us away – down a river of death, pain, and ultimately separation from the will of the God we say that we love! Yes – I am affected by the tragedy! I am affected because we try to make these images trite, common – we act like its just another tragedy. What’s the difference to us whether it is a boy with a hoodie; a man stealing cigarettes; a man who just robbed a store; or, a group of people studying the Word of God! This thing is escalating! This tragedy – this act of our enemy Satan – has rocked me to my core! Not just a racial attack – but an affront to the Christian faith as well. There is no alleged shooter here — there are no alleged victims; it is all crystal clear! This guy intended to do evil and he did just that. Call it mental illness; call it hate; call it demonic activity — SEMANTICS! It is evil. It is demonic. It is sin. I am not praying for reconciliation or peace – I am praying for truth! I am praying that we will open our eyes and put feet to our faith. I am praying that the Body of Christ will ensure that our behavior will match what we say we believe so that we can be change agents in this world. We need to admit, as a nation, that there is a problem because only then will we have any chance at peace. Yes, my heart breaks that they were murdered — but not just because they were black and murdered — because they were murdered at all!
No matter what is happening in this broken world, I am an overcomer. So many things in the last few months have happened to make my heart heavy, sad, broken — it can be difficult to muster the strength to hold on to joy and peace. But — I have chosen to hold on to joy and peace. As believers in Christ the adversity, grief, heartache, woe and injustice that we experience is to be expected. We are not citizens of in this earthly realm; our home is in heaven – we are foreigners here, aliens on a journey. It would stand to reason that we will experience enmity, bigotry, bias, hate. The world will not embrace us nor will its systems treat us with fairness.Sadly, many of us, who are citizens of heaven, have forgotten our place and are treating other citizens of heaven in ways that we should not — but I digress.
As we grieve the things that happen to us on this earth, we can rejoice that we are not alone nor or we forsaken! We have a great High Priest who is acquainted with the troubles that we face. He is limitless in His mercy and grace and He invites us to cast our cares upon Him. We are His chosen children – He loves us and wants what is best for us. You see, the world wants us to believe that all is lost, that our case is hopeless, that the battles will never end, that we are less than deserving of a peaceful life. But God has told us over and over again in His word that this is simply not true. We will overcome!
We can hold on to joy — because our hope does not lie in the things of this world or in the systems of this world – but in He who cannot and will not fail; in He who loves truly and perfectly; in He who is our all! Much like those three Hebrew boys who were in the burning furnace, we have to make the choice to believe that there is One that sees us, hears us and will deliver us in His own perfect time. We have to choose to embrace His truth – He is our peace.
Yes, it is painful; it is unfair; it is discouraging — all of it feels so wrong; but don’t lose sight of the truth that it is not contrary to what our Lord has spoken to us. He has foretold that the trials would come; but more than that He has revealed a future victory that no world system will be able to snatch from us. The troubles of this world can touch my flesh and they can prick my heart, but I will not allow them to swallow my heart and He will not let them cover my soul in darkness. I am very grateful that my life is filled with friendships that include people of all races, colors, religious backgrounds – I am blessed to have good friends across the color spectrum. But even if no one down here values me, I know who made me and I know He adores me. Man can hold me in disdain, but He is exalting me as His called out one. I am an overcomer — and I intend to live like it. Make the choice to believe His truths no matter what is happening around you so that you can experience his peace that man cannot understand. The one who dwells within you is greater than any issue that you might face. Don’t lose heart – in the end, you will win! Yes! In the end He will reign!
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Recently a good friend made a very touching public statement about how we, believers, should bear one another’s burdens as the law of Christ demands (Galatians 6:2). My friend was talking about our caring for one another is relates to physical, spiritual and emotional needs. He was saying that we should care enough about one another to know about a need, meet the need if possible, and walk with one another through to the solution (whether or not the need was met by us personally). In other words – taking another’s need as our own.
When read in context, the Galatians text is probably talking about us bearing with one another as we deal with the enticements and battles that we will face as Christians living in a fallen world. While the scriptural context my friend used was not perfect, the sentiment was right on target!
In James 2 we are asked this question, “If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? “
John 15:13 asserts, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
In Romans 12 we are admonished, “be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality”
In Philippians 2:4 are found these words, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
As I reflect on these scriptures, being the cynic that I am, I found myself thinking – do we really bear one another’s burdens? And I said NO – not unless it is a burden that:
1) We feel is worth bearing/something we deem as worthy to be called a burden
2) Will not cost us anything financially
3) Will not cause us to have to inconvenience our time/schedule
I know – I know – those of you who read this and know me well will say, “Jan, that’s just how you think!” But I want you to think about your life just over the last year.
• How many times did you make yourself available to a friend contemplating suicide? (I mean, did you even give them enough attention to know that were contemplating suicide);
• How many times did you give money that you earmarked for something else in order to ease another’s burden? (Not money from your savings, retirement, etc. – I mean sacrificially giving that ‘last 2 dollars’ so that someone could eat, sleep, be seen at the doctor, etc.);
• How many times did you commit to talk with some weekly about a problem/issue until it was resolved? (And did you keep the commitment?)
Maybe an easier question is:
• How many times did a person who calls you friend share a need, a serious need, with you and you chose to ignore it or better yet you chose to tell them ‘be warm and be filled’ without doing a thing tangible to help them or to make it better.
It’s not that we can’t do it – but will we do it? Will we allow our hearts to feel another’s pain and share in another’s joy in a real way? Or will we continue to say to one another be warm and be filled?
Love requires that we care! Next time you tell a friend – take a load off – mean it!!
God blesses. He blesses because He is a good God. Christians have fallen prey to the world’s message that He blesses us because we deserve some blessing just because – but that is not the case, necessarily. In fact that is a backwards statement as it relates to the Kingdom of God. We obey him because we love Him – because it is what we are supposed to do. He blesses us because He promised to do so when we love Him.
Romans 4:4 says “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.”
So — what is your just due?
Walking in the righteousness, blessing and favor of God requires our belief in an devotion to Him. If by being righteous we hope to earn something (blessing/favor) from Him — then it is not the right motive. If we are called to a particular task in the body of Christ we must do it out of devotion to and love for Him in order that He might grant us favor and blessing. For if we do it for a certain blessing – and then receive that thing – our wages have been paid. How much more will we receive when we stop ‘working’ for favor and start ‘serving’ out of devotion to Him?
My prayer is that we will ask the Lord to correct our motives. Help our hearts to discern rightly what we are to do for God and for the Kingdom of God. Teach us to serve out of our gratitude for Calvary and out of our gratefulness that He has dressed us in His righteousness – clothing of splendor and honor that we could NEVER purchase on our own.
Help us to understand that His very presence in our lives is our just due!
It breaks my heart as a missionary when I hear ministers of the gospel – whether pastors or missionaries or worship leaders or etc. etc. etc. – complain about the hardships that come with their ministries. It breaks my heart because whatever God has called us to – He ALWAYS is faithful to give us the grace to endure – so rather than complain, we should rejoice that He sees in us something that makes us worthy of His calling. We should remember that He instructed us to count it all joy – because it is temporary. I am a woman who hates dirt, bugs, and disorder – and God sent me to a place with all of the above and I am grateful and satisfied in His place for me. I am satisfied because I feel the Lord’s pleasure over my life and ministry. I have no cause at all to complain.
It breaks my heart when I hear ministers of the gospel compare their work to another’s – whether they feel like their work is more or less important. Rather than comparing – we should be celebrating the victories that our co-laborers experience, and mourning with them over any defeats. When I hear from my friends in Rwanda who are training pastors; or Mozambique who are discipling leaders and providing protein with a egg farm; or in Tanzania who are building schools in villages where there are no schools; or in Senegal who train pastors and help children of the Talibe; or Cote D’Ivoire who provide medical care and Bible translation – I say Hallelujah our team of workers for the Kingdom is doing what He has called us to do. And more than that I pray for them and when I have resources available I support their work financially.
I guess it all boils down to where we find our contentment. Mine is found in Him – and in Him alone! So I choose to rejoice in my trials and rejoice in the victories of other minister’s of the gospel as well. After all — isn’t it all about Him???
Do all things without grumbling and complaining – Philippians 2:14
If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. Galatians 6:3,4