He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Psalm 40:3a

Monday, August 29, 2016

My Gift To Him

           I read an article today about the many ways we serve.  The article, written by a Pastor, explained that while he was “in charge” of the church as “Pastor” we are all ministers.  Each of us has a different talent, no matter how seemingly small, that is important in the furthering of God’s kingdom. 
There was one lady in a church I attended years ago that was unable to do much in the eyes of some.  But to the church secretary, she was invaluable.  When it came time to send out newsletters, she could fold them!  This was a necessary, boring task to most.  But she volunteered to do the job, because she could and it was her way to serve.
            I marvel at how quickly people hide when the word “work” is introduced at a meeting.  It seems it would be better equated with “serve.” It’s all in perspective.  Jesus said He came to serve.  It is his example we should follow.  His service cost him his life.  He served to the point of the cross. 
One Pastor I know outlawed the word “work” in their church!  He insists instead, on using the word “ministry.”  It’s about perception.  Our human minds hit a panic and overload button when we hear “work” and naturally retreat thinking there is no time in our already full calendar to obligate to even one more thing!
            But when we can look at what we are asked to do, or even want to do, through the eyes of “ministry” it changes our perspective.
My efforts of “service” seem so trivial when compared to Jesus’ sacrifice.  Yet God wants us to “serve” in whatever way is possible.  If that means folding newsletters, then that is a good thing.  If it’s teaching a Sunday school class, cleaning the sanctuary, mowing the lawn, singing in the choir, watching children while others practice for the choir or any variety of things; then that is a good thing.  The important thing is to serve like Jesus taught us.  It is our gift back to him.
            Recently some Believers and I were discussing the idea of “loving your neighbor, like yourself.”  Who is our neighbor?  It could be literally the person who has an adjoining lawn, someone across town who lives in a poor neighborhood, a homeless person walking a city street, or even perhaps a person who is very different from ourselves. 
            It is somewhat intimidating and even frightening to think about “serving” someone very different than ourselves, given the state of our society.  But we are instructed to take care of our “neighbor” like ourselves……  How do we care for ourselves?  We eat, have adequate housing, clothes and often, too many material items.  And we make sure we have the means to go where we want to go, when we want to.
            Perhaps serving includes taking someone to church with us, or to a doctor’s appointment, shopping or other place they need to go.  It’s about finding out what they “need” and then seeing to it!
            One person added Jesus was different to his counterparts when he walked the Earth.  Yet he reached out to everyone.  The Good Samaritan aided a Jew, who at the time was considered an “enemy” of the Gentile/Samaritan and unclean.  This is the ultimate demonstration of servanthood.  Further this is the supreme example of giving a gift to Christ.  It is the gift of ourselves.  He wants us to use what he’s given us, as our gift to him. 

I challenge you to ask yourself:  What gift am I giving Him today?

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Special Family Line

Searching one’s genealogy can be an interesting adventure, as a person tries to identify his family from generations past.  My personal path includes Swiss and German among others, when I combine both my parent’s lineage.          

Mestizo is a word used sometimes to describe a person with family lines from Latin America, Europe and an American Indian, although the definition varies from country to country.  A Melungeon is another term I discovered that means having several different ethnic groups in their family line.  In any case both words were created to define a mixed blend of cultures that came together forming their own family heritage.

The idea of mixed ethnic lines was around even during Bible times.  The Apostle Paul was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin and also had Roman citizenship, an inheritance from his father. This happens in many families, even today.  My husband is Indian and Irish; I am Swiss and German which makes my children a mix of the four different ethnicities, at a bare minimum! 

Jesus’ lineage is from the Davidic line.  Samuel used Holy oil to anoint David, as a very young man.  David was the one least likely to be chosen from the family of Jesse. He was the youngest of eight sons and a shepherd boy.  Yet we are told the Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that time on.  God protected him from Saul and made him a great king, despite the sin in his life.  David was considered “a man after God’s own heart” because he recognized his failings and had a repentant heart and truly loved The Lord.  The line that followed would be the ancestry of Jesus.

Like Jesus, the “Melungeons” and “Mestizos” weren’t always accepted within the community.  There was racial discrimination.  History indicates for a time the “Melungeons” were generally accepted, but with the slave rebellion in 1831, they were rejected and reduced to second-class status.  Jesus was rejected by his own people.  Many missed the Messiah’s birth and even now await His coming. 

As Jesus grew into a man and began his ministry there were those who accused him of heresy and blasphemy.  He was told he was crazy, an imposter and demon possessed.  His teachings, often in parables, were unclear to the Pharisees and when they did understand were angered because they knew the parable was about them. They sought to kill him or in some way make him stop teaching the people.

We have a responsibility to continue the ministry Jesus began.  He brought the Good News to all who would listen.  People either loved Him or hated Him.  Like the “Melungeons” and "Mestizos," Jesus was different and in many circles considered an outcast.  It isn’t much different today.  As a believer, who is now part of “God’s family,” we need to be willing to be different enough to share the Good News with people around us.  It isn’t easy to be different or to be counted as an “outcast.”  But Jesus is counting on us, His family, to carry on the mission.  How will you respond? 

Monday, August 15, 2016

In All Our Diversity

The Unites States stretches over five thousand miles from east to west and is different from area to  area. There are states which could be described as a “country” with its geographical diversity such as Arizona, Maryland, California or even Texas.  Yet it is this diversity that makes each state unique and such great a place. 

There are steep slopes in the Black Hills, Great Smoky and Rocky Mountains.  Areas like Iowa, Kansas and even Delaware are flat, fertile farmlands.  There are buttes, plateaus and wooded ridges in Colorado, Montana and Wyoming; great rivers like the Mississippi, Ohio, and the Rio Grande; and streams in Massachusetts, Arkansas or Washington; and there are majestic areas like the Grand Canyon, Arches, Yellowstone, Glacier and Yosemite National Parks.

 But are these geographical wonders in each state what really makes them so special?  While each of these elements are mesmerizing in their own right, it’s really the people who live in these places that makes the area so appealing and special.

            God created the people who live here as diverse, as the area in which we live, because it’s a collective effort of the inhabitants that gives it completion.  When Jesus chose his disciples, he chose twelve unlikely men who were as different from each other as they could be!  They ranged from a despised tax-collector to a fisherman to a betrayer, with others in between.  Yet these men, when joined with a singular purpose, despite their individual weaknesses, formed a group as strong as any ever known.

            People are different by design, much like the different parts of the body.  Our hands are different than our knees, our ears different than our feet, our shoulders different than our legs.  Yet, each individual part of the body serves a specific and important part of the whole.  Our knees cannot do what our hands can or the reverse.  The same is true of our ears and feet, shoulders and legs.  But we need each part of our body to have completion! 

            I have five children and none are alike.  Oh, they certainly share qualities and similarities physically, since they all share the same parents.  But there is a unique combination of qualities from both parents that makes them each unique.  Each of my children together completes the family.  They have their special gifts and talents separate from the others.  Their gifts, talents, strengths and weaknesses make our family strong.

            The church family is the same.  There are many abilities brought to the congregation as each person has been given specific abilities and qualities that compliment the gathering.  There is much to be done within the body of the church and not one person is able to do all of them.  So just like the hand, feet, ears, and eyes are part of the whole body, each person within the congregation is also part of the whole body. 

            The wonderful people who live across this vast continent, in all their diversity, are part of the grand total that makes this part of the world such an amazing place.  God has given us abilities and talents that complete our world.  I am grateful God has allowed me to become part of this family.  I’m glad you are part of it too!