Thursday, October 15, 2009

Living it out...

Dr. Martin was enjoying a rare lunch break during an unusually slow day at the office. Instead of grabbing a sandwich at the hospital where he worked, he’d decided to walk the half mile to the little cafĂ© down the street. While he was eating, he looked around at the other patrons. A group of ladies were talking and laughing two tables down, another couple looked as though they were in a heated argument. There was one other person also there by himself. A robust looking man, with a large plate of pasta in front of him. The man was sweating, and his lunch hadn’t been touched. Dr. Martin noticed the man was gripping the table, and seemed to be struggling for breath.

The doctor picked up his sandwich and took a bite. He chewed slowly, all the while watching the other man. The man pulled at his collar, clutched at his chest, and slumped over onto the table. One of the ladies two tables down let out a scream, and the whole restaurant seemed to erupt in chaos. “Doctor!! Somebody call a doctor! I think he’s having a heart attack!!”

Dr. Martin took another bite of his sandwich. He thought to himself, “I know I could help him. I know what to do. But my profession is my business. It's personal. It’s not something I want to share with the whole world.”

A ridiculous scenario, isn’t it? A doctor, spending thousands of dollars on medical school, countless hours interning, and weeks of sleepless nights in the E.R. only to decide his expertise is private. Not something he wants to share. That would never happen. In fact, it didn’t. There is no Dr. Martin (that I’m acquainted with), and I made that story up. But here’s one that might hit closer to home.

Kelley and Rachel met in college and have been best friends ever since. They share a two bedroom apartment in a trendy area near downtown. Back before they started their careers, they were joined at the hip, hitting all the fun clubs, always the life of the party. Then Kelley got a job at a prestigious law firm. Early mornings…late nights…70 hour work weeks. Rachel got a job too, selling ads for a glamorous magazine. She had a pretty laid-back boss. As long as she made her numbers and kept her clients happy, she could pretty much come and go as she pleased.

Kelley started a Saturday morning bible study, and Rachel started entertaining clients during the week. It always involved expensive dinners, exotic wines, and partying all hours of the night. Kelley found a vibrant fast growing church, and never missed a Sunday service. Rachel would meet her out for brunch after….if she woke up in time.

Kelley started to notice that Rachel seemed unhappy. She was always tired, always frustrated. Rachel didn’t understand how Kelley always seemed so peaceful, when Kelley worked twice as much as she did and made half the money. Kelley thought about asking her to go to church, but knew her roommate would never get up that early. She thought about witnessing to her, but knew Rachel would just shrug it off. Or even worse, make fun of her. So Kelley said nothing. And the two continued to drift further…and further…apart.

Do you see a parallel here? It may not seem like it, but the two scenarios are equally ridiculous. We laugh at the first one and say "that would never happen!" But the second one makes us squirm. It happens all the time. And it's is an offense to God.

God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to live among us, to die a sinners’ death, and how do we repay that? “My faith is my business,” we tell ourselves. “My relationship with God is private.” “I don’t want people to think I’m a bible beater.” Do you know what that makes us, as Christians? Useless. It makes us absolutely useless to the body of Christ. James writes in chapter 3, verse 14, “Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions? That kind of faith can’t save anyone.”

It’s a major deal to James…he spends a good chunk of his letter to the Jewish Christians telling them that faith without works means nothing. And it should be a major deal to us. It’s like having a paralyzed arm. An arm that can’t move is of no use to the body.
I love the next verse, where it really gets convicting. James 3:15, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing, and you say, ‘Well, goodbye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well’ – but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” That person doesn’t need your prayers, he needs your coat! That woman doesn’t need your blessing, she needs 5 bucks to get some McDonalds!

I’m guilty of it. I can’t really remember the last time I asked someone to go to church with me. But I do try to make my faith a natural part of conversation. And I understand that it can be intimidating. But it’s what we’re called to do as Christians. It’s our job…to spread the good news. Luke 24: 47, Jesus tells His disciples, “With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’” We’re so quick to rush out and tell all of our friends about a great sale. “Cute retro t-shirts at Target, 10 bucks!” Why is it so difficult to tell those we cross paths with every day about the Good News that could change their life forever?

Not everyone is called to ministry, and not everyone is called to evangelize. Those are very special, specific callings from God. But every last one of us IS called to witness. We are most certainly called to love each other, and serve each other.

One of my daily prayers is that I would love people…really LOVE them…just as God loves us. And trust me, friends, some people in my life can be pretty tough to love. I pray that God would open my eyes…to see people…just as God sees us. I probably miss that goal more than I hit it, but I'm working on it. This is a crazy, mixed up world, but we’re all in it together. We all have issues. How much better would things be if we really, truly followed Jesus’ two most important commandments? Mark 12:29-31, “Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

That’s pretty powerful. And pretty straight forward. Hard to plead ignorance when the bible says...loving each other is every bit as important as loving God. So here is your challenge. Who is in your immediate circle of influence? Are you witnessing with your lifestyle? Do you show love to the office gossip that suddenly stops whispering when you walk in the room? What about that parent on the PTA that just has to be in charge of everything? Or that darn kid that’s making your child’s life miserable? Jesus loves them just as much as He loves you. They are just as precious in His sight. For the next 3 days, just love them. Don’t expect anything back. Just treat them like Jesus would if He were here. Find ways to serve them. Love them like you love those closest to you. You might be surprised…your living witness might change their heart. It will most certainly change yours.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Forecast calls for rain

I've been wanting to write a blog entry on storms for some time now. And it's no wonder. Where I live, in the DFW area, we've had a lot of rain. But I've had serious writer's block on this particular subject, and I'll tell you why. It's because I don't feel qualified. I've had my share of storms, who hasn't? But recently, I've watched some of my friends endure storms....storms that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

My sister in-law was overjoyed when she found out she was pregnant. She and her husband have three beautiful boys, and they wanted to try for that girl just one more time. She would be equally delighted, though, if God blessed her with another baby boy. A healthy baby was their top concern. She works at an OBGYN's office in Dallas. How lucky to be able to get a sonogram anytime you want and see that precious little soul wiggling around! The nurse had an appointment cancel, and called Karen (name is changed) back to see if they could figure out the sex. She looked...and looked.....and looked. No heartbeat. Instead, heartache. Grief. Loss.

A friend of mine was stunned....just stunned....when the diagnosis came back. Colon cancer. And it had spread to her lungs. And she has no insurance. Instead of baseball with her two little boys, she's lying in a hospital bed hooked up to countless machines, so tired she can barely lift her head. Instead of saving for her children's college education, she's watching their meager savings disappear before her eyes.

I have no idea how they feel. I can sympathize all day, but any words I offer sound hollow in my own ears. So....I do the only thing I know how to do. I try to do what God is already doing. I walk with them. I listen to them. I cry for them and with them. I pray for them and with them. My own sweet sister recently had a miscarriage scare. She had found out she was pregnant about two weeks before she was to leave for Italy. Anxious to see the doctor before she left the country, she scheduled an appointment....even though she was only about six weeks along. When she got heartbeat. I talked to my sister on the phone immediately after she left the doctor's office. My heart broke in two as she cried and told me, "Rebecca, I don't even know what to pray." I've never had a miscarriage, but I have been so sad and broken that I couldn't even find words for my Savior.

This bible passage brings comfort to me. Romans 8:26, And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. That almost moves me to tears. Can you picture it? Jesus, the Son of God, who endured every temptation but lived a sinless life. Who died, hanging on a cross...nails piercing his hands and feet. Mourning with us. Praying for us....with such passion that it can not be expressed in words. Friends, that is the truth. If you don't believe me, just look at John, Chapter 11.

In this chapter, Lazarus (brother to Mary and Martha, and a dear friend of Jesus') has died, so Mary and Martha send for their Lord. By the time Jesus gets there, it has been several days. As soon as Mary sees Him, John 11:32 tells us "she fell down at His feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Let's pick it up at verse 33. "When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, He was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. 'Where have you put him?' he asked them. They told Him, 'Lord, come and see.' Then Jesus wept." Are those not some of the most precious words in the bible? Jesus wept. He didn't just swallow the lump in his throat....or wipe a few tears away. Jesus WEPT. And I have to tell you....He wasn't weeping for Lazerus. He knew what He was about to do. He was about bring Lazerus back from the grave. No....Jesus wept for Mary, for Martha, and for all of those who loved Lazerus.

Isn't awesome, that our Savior is so compassionate and loves us so much, that He weeps with us? Even when He already knows the outcome of our storm, He weeps with us. Let's go back to Romans...take a look at Chapter 8, verses 27-28. We'll pick up right where we left off, right after we read how the Holy Spirit prays for us with "groanings that cannot be expressed in words." "And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will." Now pay don't want to miss this part - "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Did you catch that? God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God! There is storm....too great for God! There is not ONE SINGLE situation that He can't turn around and use for His good purpose.

Take Nancy's story. Growing up, she and her sister Suzy were as close as two peas in a pod. When the two girls went off to college, they spoke every day on the phone. Nancy was the maid of honor when her sister married her college sweetheart. Imagine the storm clouds gathering when Nancy answered the phone and got the news...Suzy had breast cancer. Imagine the winds of doubt, the thundering fear, and the anguish pouring down when they found out Suzy would not live. Friends...have you ever heard of the Susan G. Komen foundation?

God can use any situation to work for the good of those who love God...and are called according to His purpose. Who is called? You are. Isaiah 43: 1-3, "But now, O Israel, the LORD who created you says: 'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you."

He has called you by are His. When you go through deep waters and great difficulty, He will be with you. We know the forecast calls for rain. We know there are deep waters and great troubles ahead. We don't know exactly what the outcome will be. But we do know this....we are not alone. He is with us. We will not drown....and the flames will not consume us. God bless you and keep you, and I pray that everyone who reads this will find their way safely through the storms of life....holding tightly to our Lord's hand.

And by the way, Karen is now 2 weeks out from giving birth to her 4th child...a baby girl! And this baby was a complete and total surprise. It took fertility drugs to get pregnant with her first three children...but not this time. And more good sister is thankful for each day of morning sickness that she's going through right now, because it just confirms what the doctor told her as soon as she got back from Italy. She IS pregnant, and the heartbeat is strong! Hallelujah! My friend, however, could use your prayers. She is currently still undergoing chemo, but is very happy to see the tumors shrinking.