Saturday, January 20, 2007

Buzybody? Who me?

Several weeks ago our pastor preached on 1 Thes 4:9-12. The title of his message was “Fanatics, Busybodies and Loafers.” It was painful to listen to.

This week, in our Bible study, we are at 1 Peter 4:14-15. In it, Peter tells his flock, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you…but let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer or as a busybody in other people's matters.” Great. Here Peter does not group busybodies with loafers but with murderers and thieves. It’s hard to miss his meaning.

When I was a teen, I went to church with my friends on Sundays. We would walk there, sit in the back and try to keep quiet, because where we churched, being quiet in church was the norm. So we would say to each other “don’t laugh,” and that would always send us into a torrent of giggles.

Why is it that rules, in and of themselves, have no power? In fact, they almost beg us to break them! What then gives us power to obey Christ?

Another sermon was one that I found more helpful. The title of it was “Drinking Seawater” and it was about sexual immorality. I found even the title more encouraging, because in it, pastor was not simply identifying the sin, but telling us all why the pursuit of the sin was so damaging to us. Drinking seawater is just how it is to engage in sexual immorality. It looks good, it looks like it would quench your thirst and it certainly is plentiful. But in truth, it only makes you more thirsty, and in the end, will kill you.

Sometimes when we can uncover God’s truth in a matter, it can help free us from the power over a sin. In this case, being a busybody.

If I am Princess Busybody, my mom was the Queen. It’s so hard to break a generational habit, because with the habit we have been trained in the falsehoods that perpetuate it. Even though I did not want to become like my mother, she has taught me all the lies that make her that way. So let’s shine some light on the subject and get back to the truth.

  • First lie…I’m only trying to help. No. I am trying to control the situation. I do not like how it’s turning out and I want to fix it, fit them, know what is going to happen, be prepared.

    God is in control. If it is their issue, He will talk to them about it and not you. If He doesn’t like how it’s turning out, He is well able to fix it. If He needs you to be prepared, He can prepare you too. If He wants you to be unprepared, you can be unprepared and still survive. It is ok.
  • Next lie…They need my help. No. You are not smarter than them, more educated, better prepared. If they want your help or advice, they can ask you. If they do not, they may want to figure it out by themselves.

    When we do for others, sometimes they feel incompetent and unable to care for themselves. They will never learn how to take care of their own business if we are always in it.
  • Last and biggest lie…If I don’t help, something awful will happen. Well, maybe. But it doesn’t matter. Sometimes this is the only way people learn and to take away their opportunity to fail is to stunt their growth. When people make mistakes, even if they are close to us, like our children, our husband, we are NOT responsible for it.
When I worry about other people’s business, I can neglect my own. Instead of approaching the Throne of Grace in prayer, I spin my wheels trying to think of ways to convince people of my ideas. Instead of resting in the sovereignty of God, I thrash around in my mind needlessly and God’s peace alludes me.

On That Day, Jesus will not ask me how others did in their lives. He will only ask me about my own. In some cases, I should share my thoughts, but only in humility, gentleness and love. And then, once or twice is usually enough. After that, the Lord of Hosts is well able to use my words and repeat them to others if they have merit and purpose in His Kingdom.

Murderers, thieves and busybodies. How seriously You take this matter, Beloved! Perhaps I should take it more seriously too and seek forgiveness and obedience in this matter. Because not only will You not hold me responsible for other’s behavior, but You will most definitely hold me responsible for mine!

Discovering God's Will for My Life

In any relationship, the only way to know how to please the other person is to spend time with them. For example, this Christmas I noticed it was easier to select a gift for my co-workers and close girl friends than some of my family members. I just had spent, recently, much more time around my friends than some of my family, even though I knew my family much longer. I was more in tune with them.

Likewise, the only way to know how to please God is to spend time with Him. Like you would your friends, you listen to them, you do things with them, you observe them in different arenas of life, and as you do, you will discover how they drink their coffee, if they are larks or night owls, if they check their email regularly or if they leave their cell phone on as they drive home from work.

When we spend time with God, in Bible reading, prayer, worship, service to His children, we learn about Him.

The other factor is God is constantly preparing us for the next adventure. He wastes nothing. No activity, no event, no pain, no joy is wasted in your training, your sanctification, to use the official “churchy” word. As my brother Gabe said yesterday, “As soon as Maria (his daughter) was borne, I embarked on this journey of training her. Everything I did, as I did it, I thought of how I would use it to teach her a new lesson about life.” God is like that. Everything can be a life lesson for us, if we are open to it.

So that brings us to the next important step: we need to do everything with all our might, opening our heart to the lesson in it our Heavenly Father has for us. If we focus on the thing “in your hand” (Exodus 4:1-5) then He will train us for the next thing. He has told us to train our children “when you walk by the way,” (Duet 6:7) and likewise, He trains us. If worry about pursuing the “next step” we may miss what He has for us now, that we need to prepare us for that step. God’s word is a light for our feet (Psalm 119:105) – meaning that we get enough light for the next step only most times. When we rush ahead or we can miss the necessary preparation.

Often it’s so hard to wait on God. But we need to wait for His timing in all things. Recently I went to a service where we remembered our youth pastor, PJoe, who went to be with the Lord a year ago. The night before, in response to preparation work we were doing for this service, I had blogged about PJoe, but I was not sure it was appropriate to read it. But I emailed it to Pastor Jeff, who was presiding over the service, and then tucked it away so I had it with me. Later, at the service, Pastor Jeff sat nearby me, and during one of the closing parts he looked at me and nodded. And so I felt confident to get up next and read what I had written.

This incident touched me as representative of how it can work well to seek God’s will:

  1. Serve God: I was busy making preparations for PJoe’s service and then, while doing that, God spoke to me. When we are doing the right thing, even when others may misunderstand or be angry, we are always on safe ground. Even if others do not notice, God always sees and rewards us.
  2. Do what God prompts you to do: I went home and wrote the blog entry.
  3. Check your spirit and your gift: I sent it to Pastor Jeff, to make sure I was on the right track. I let myself be accountable to someone with wisdom and integrity. For a change, I was gentle and humble, not self-righteous and pushy.
  4. Be prepared: I brought the blog with me to the service.
  5. Wait for the nod: I was prepared to speak, or not, not depending on my reasons or my feelings, but was waiting on God.
  6. Move out in confidence and courage: Got up and shared my blog with those who had come. And it didn’t matter the feed-back I got, really, I needed then to do God’s will only, in obedience.

Often we can feel that a person or situation can block God’s will for our lives, but that does agree with scripture which teaches us that no trial, no person, can interfere with God’s plans for us (Rom 8:37). God is sovereign. There is no trial we encounter that God is taken back by, that God has not counted in His great plans for us. Look at the life of Job, where God has literally pulled back the curtain and allowed us to see His conversation with Satan before He allows him to interfere with Job’s life (Job 1:6-12). Look at the life of Joseph; he was treated so cruelly by his own brothers and in the end his testimony was “God meant it for good” (Gen 50:20).

We can embrace every trial knowing that God sees, He is in control, and He will work it out. When we rest in that knowledge, we can experience the peace that passes understanding.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

True Beauty

Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty.

What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.
1 Peter 3:1-6 MSG

Yesterday my friend Donna was telling me that she had a asthma attack in the middle of the night.

"It's hard to call 911 when you are by yourself having an asthma attack," I told her.

"Yes and it's even harder to answer the door when you are lying on the floor," she replied.

Always practical and a nurse besides, Donna continued on about how she did not want to be found dead in that way, "with drool running down my chin, no make up and in my bathrobe."

I promised her that if I ever found her dead, I would clean her up, touch up her make-up and put on her favorite outfit. What a true friend.

Donna is the most beautiful woman I know. She has a true beauty that is delightful to be around and gaze upon. Her gentle, compassionate, sweet spirit is utterly captivating. She has the beauty that only comes from devotion to and connection with our Beloved Jesus.

One of the movies that has most disturbed me was one called Death Becomes Her, with Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn playing two jealous, conniving women who allow a spell to be cast upon them that gives them eternal physical life and perfect physical beauty. The catch? They are really dead and cannot no longer die. In the end of the movie, their physical beauty succumbs to the accidents and wear and tear of the world and they look hideous. In trying to become beautiful, they became more and more ugly. And their ugliness was permanent, as they could never leave their outward bodies and embrace death. Their anger, jealousy and bitterness made them miserable.

The way we make ourselves beautiful is by being in the presence of the True Beautiful One, Jesus. As we read His love letters to us, as we tell Him our deepest secrets and fears in prayer, as we adore Him in worship, as we serve His children here on the earth, His beauty rubs off on us and we are made more and more beautiful too.

Ok, truth be told sometimes we, with the stress of life, lose our sweet spirit and and we allow pride, anger and doubt to creep in. But more and more, as we walk with my Beloved, that happens less and less.

One day you may find me dead. You can clean me up, make me up, dress me up, and put me in a pretty box if that would comfort you. Or you can give my left over shell to science and medicine or burn me to ashes. It's all the same to me.

Because then I'll be in the arms then of my Beloved Jesus and mine will have been made a perfect beauty.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Remembering PJoe

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them...

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Who can say if I've been
Changed for the better?
I do believe I have been
Changed for the better

Because I knew you...
I have been changed for good.
(For Good - from the Broadway play Wicked)

Tomorrow night we will spend an evening remembering our dear friend and pastor, Joe Fields.

Joe was so many different things, all wrapped into one quirky package.

He was a mere boy really, and that was the best part of him. He was young enough to be my son, well, if I had him really, really young. He loved jokes and games and legos. He laughed out loud, sang off key in the hallways, left dirty dishes in the sink. He would do whatever you asked him. We would take out the garbage together. We would line up the chairs in the sanctuary together. We would go to Costco and buy tons of food and jam it into my car together. No job was too messy for Joe to enjoy with you. And just being with Joe made any job enjoyable.

I have two daughters and never longed for a son. Until I met Joe and realized what a great thing I had missed out on.

Joe was a wonderful man of God. He had incredible far-reaching wisdom for one so young. For a young man so sick, he was really the most healthy person I knew. He understood how to relate to people and he knew how important that was. He knew his Bible and how to explain it in simple terms. He knew how to talk about God to my teens, and he knew when and how to talk about their life issues too. Joe was great with teens, he was great with old people. He could keep up with Celia and I in discussion, yet do the boy thing with Jim and the youth boys. And he loved playing with his baby Ethan. His range was awesome.

Joe was a man of passion. He was passionate about God, his work, his family, his friends, and he had lots of them. He was not half way about it at all. He may have had a lot of commitments, but he was a man of commitment and integrity. He had the rare gift of knowing what he was about, knowing where he was going and knowing why he was going there. He may have not had a lot of money but he was rich beyond measure in his friendship and his peace.

Joe was a man of wisdom. One of the worst parts about me dealing with Christina being pregnant initially was that I could not tell Joe. He would have known what to tell me and her. He always had great sense about life, about people, about God.

Joe leaving has left a big hole. There is the hole of the youth pastor that we never filled. Who could replace this man? There is a hole in our office, and more than just an empty room. It seems like the staff has never been the same since. Or maybe it's just me who has never been the same...

What do you say about such things? How do you recover from such a loss? How do you go on?

Tonight Ken and I were in the Fellowship Hall watching the slide show, photos of Joe, alive and happy with all of his friends, I said, "I can't believe he's dead."

And Ken replied, "He's not. He's just not here."

Part of the trouble with trying to get my mind around what has happened is that Joe periodically would go away to the hospital, get better, and then come back to us. It is hard to believe still, that he is not just away and will soon be coming back.

But that is the definitive truth. He'd not dead. He is just not here. He is coming back.

And, as the song says, he has left a hand-print on our hearts. Us who have known Joe will never be the same. We are changed, for good. His love for Christ and his love for us has changed us.

Joe did not have any outstanding gifts, as the world would recognize. He could not play an instrument or sing. He was not an outstanding orator, or doctor or athlete. He was just a man who with all his heart and soul did good. And he cannot be stopped. Death cannot stop Joe, and he knew that. He knew that if he obeyed His Heavenly Father, not only would he live forever with Him, but his legacy would live forever too.

And it will. With us.

1 Peter 3:13-18

If with heart and soul you're doing good, do you think you can be stopped? Even if you suffer for it, you're still better off.

Don't give the opposition a second thought. Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master.

Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy. Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick. They'll end up realizing that they're the ones who need a bath.

It's better to suffer for doing good, if that's what God wants, than to be punished for doing bad. That's what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others' sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.