They Love Me, Too

One thing I love about the Lord’s church is the fact that we are family.  We are brothers and sisters united by the precious blood of Christ.  That means no matter where we go, we can find family.

This past week Neal and I have been with the Hollywood Rd. church of Christ in Houma, LA.  We both feel like we have been among true family and gained true friends.  In the body of Christ, it doesn’t take long to form heart connections!  The Christians here are warm, friendly, and giving.  It is obvious they love being together.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

It was easy for Neal and I to identify that common love in the church here.  We are Christians coming in among fellow Christians.  But what does the world see?

Tuesday night one of the members brought a guest to the gospel meeting going on this week.  The guest showed up early enough to enjoy the meal we had together first.  What was his impression?  What did his first glimpse of  the Lord’s church reveal?  I am so thankful that we learned the answer to those questions.  Last night we found out that this visitor went to work the next day talking about his experience.  He said, “Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.”

A higher compliment to the church here in Houma could not be paid!  Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?  Isn’t the goal of every church to be so loving that visitors walk away with the impression of being loved? This visitor knew that he was taken in and loved because the Christians here love Jesus.  What’s their secret here?  How did a one-time visit leave such an impression on this man?  I know the answer to that, too, because I saw it unfold.  He was greeted warmly, he was hugged, and he was served.  This visitor knew the Christians here love Jesus because they acted like Jesus.

I hope I remember this for a long time.  I am so convicted by this simple experience.  I am challenged to do my part in my home church to make visitors feel loved.

What impression are people left with when they visit your home congregation?  How do you make them feel?  May we all do our part to make sure others “know we are Christians by our love.”

Those people not only love Jesus, they love me, too.

11960026_10207496776727033_3472147600209190240_n

David & Kathy Jones, a couple who lives out the love of Christ here in Houma, LA!

 

 

 

Revive Me #37- Fight for Relationships

Revive Me, Week 37– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Fight for Relationships

Perhaps you’ve seen some status posts or memes that convey a “that’s their problem” mentality.  They’ll say things like:

Sometimes you have to move on without certain people.  If they’re meant to be in your life, they’ll catch up.

I’m tired of fighting.  For once I want to be fought for.

Life is short.  Only surround yourself with people who get you.

Relationships are worth fighting for but not if only one is fighting.

These comments are sad, aren’t they?  They reveal a short-sightedness that comes from thinking like the world.  Relationships are worth fighting for.  They’re important to God and should be to us as well.  I’m not talking about relationships that are unwholesome (1 Cor. 15:33).  I’m talking about:

  • Being willing to swallow our pride to work through hurt feelings with a sister in Christ
  • Drumming up the courage to form friendships with our neighbors
  • Continuing to be kind to those who have been thoughtless or mean
  • Honoring our parents even if they’ve let us down
  • Putting our spouse’s needs before our own, every day
  • Giving ourselves, offering our time, opening our hearts to our church family without burning out or getting huffy if we don’t feel our efforts are being reciprocated

God wants us to fight for good relationships.  He wants US to make the first move to show others we care.  Read Romans 12:9-21.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Break down Rom. 12:9-21 phrase by phrase.  List a practical way to demonstrate each command.
  2.  Is there a strained relationship in your life?  Have you done your part to work through it?  Pray about it and reach out again.
  3.  Check your heart.  Is pride keeping you from making things right with someone?  Have you been lazy in your efforts to show love?
  4.  Begin to form a new relationship this week.  Choose a neighbor, an elderly person or nursing home resident, a new Christian, etc.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

real-love_9-reasons-why-a-relationship-is-worth-fighting-for

Bing image

 

Revive Me #36- Hug Like You Mean It

Revive Me, Week 36– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Hug Like You Mean It

“Let go of whatever it was that turned you into a tentative hugger, and hug like you mean it.”

I’ve been doing too much mindless hugging lately.  When my husband walks in the door, I often hug him but my mind might be elsewhere.  I can be in the middle of hugging a member of my church family but my eyes will be searching for that person I need to talk to.  And I don’t even want to think about how many hugs from my sons I didn’t really focus on.

A couple of things have caused me to think about this:

  1.  The brevity of life (James 4:13-17).  I’ve recently heard of a couple of sudden, unexpected deaths.  I imagine their loved ones are recalling their last interactions with the departed.  They probably want nothing more than to hold them one more time.  When you wish you could hug someone but you can’t, you know the value of a simple hug.  I also know of some who have a loved one entering hospice care.  Surely every hug from now on will be more meaningful, more precious.
  2. The power of a good hug.  I’ve been the recipient of a couple of heartfelt hugs lately, the kind that make me pause and think, “Oh, this is a real hug.”  Real hugs leave me feeling bolstered and loved, as if I just received a gift.  They make me smile say, “thank you!”  They convince me to be more deliberate with my own hugging.

“A hug delights and warms and charms.  That must be why God gave us arms.”

Non-huggers may be cringing at this post.  That’s okay.  You have your own form of greeting and encouraging (a hearty handshake?).  The point of this Revive Me challenge is to remind us to be “all there” when we engage with others.  Smile warmly, look others in the eye, and hug for real.  For some, it may be just the boost they need to keep on keeping on.

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.  Hug the stuffing out of your family members this week.  Give your husband extra doses.  Cherish every child-hug.  And especially hug the elderly in your family.
  2.  Determine to give up distracted greetings.  Give one-on-one attention to each person you meet at worship.
  3.  Go out of your way to hug the unhuggable (not the ones who don’t like hugs…that wouldn’t be very nice).  Look for the insecure, angry, or rebellious.  Help them understand God’s compassion by offering a warm hug.
  4.  Never let a gathering go by where you don’t hug the widows and widowers.  For some of them, it may be the only contact they enjoy during the week.
  5.  Just for fun, do some research into the science of hugging to learn some of the health benefits.

Read it.  Memorize it.  Live it.

hugs

 

Revive Me #14- Speak Tenderly

Revive Me, Week 14– A Year of Growing Stronger in the Lord

Speak Tenderly

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

Death speech:

  • Attacking instead of defending a position with dignity— We are to “be ready to give a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15).  We are to be passionate about the Truth (Jude 3).  But in that passionate defense, we need to make sure we are not neglecting to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).
  • Overusing sarcasm– When speaking to or about others, sarcasm can smack of arrogance.  Just because we’re quick-witted enough to use it doesn’t mean we should.  Let’s not be snarkastic (to borrow my husband’s word) when a gentle answer would be more powerful (Prov. 15:1).
  • Making disparaging remarks— When someone is struggling with personal battles, the last thing they need to hear when they show up for worship is, “What?  You don’t own a tie?”  We assume that others are strong enough to bear whatever we dish out but we don’t always know their spiritual state.  Our innocent but thoughtless remarks could cause someone to leave feeling beat down instead of built up.
  • Speaking in exasperation— Since we spend the most time with our families, we can have more moments of irritation and annoyance with them.  Let’s be sure to cherish those relationships by interacting with patience and respect.

If a loved one is the one being discouraged by the words of another, we feel very protective and indignant. We wonder why someone didn’t think before they spoke, why they thought it was okay to be so free with their careless opinion.  We need to feel that same level of protection toward everyone.  We will be held accountable for what we say/ post to or about others (Matt. 12:36).

Life Speech:

  • Building others up— It doesn’t take much effort but oh what good can be done by thoughtful words (1 Thess. 5:11)!
  • Commending/ praising/ blessing others– This is one way we can look to the interests of others (Phil. 2:3,4)
  • Loving others— We’re commanded to love one another (1 John 4:7,8) so why shouldn’t we tell each other we do?
  • Sharing the good news– The best way to give life is to tell about the One who is Life (John 14:6).
  • Expressing gratitude— I don’t think it can be overdone.
  • Encouraging others– Many are quietly serving.  We can encourage them by telling them they make a difference.

To speak tenderly means to speak lovingly and gently.  Let’s determine to speak tenderly in every interaction.  We represent Christ.  Our life-giving words will clearly demonstrate that.

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

(Eph. 4:29-32)

Suggestions for the Week:

  1.   Use the power of your tongue this week to encourage:
  • Face to face– Make it your mission to encourage at least 15 different people
  • Social media– 10 posts that will encourage the church as a whole or a specific person
  • Email– send to 5 different people pointing out their strengths
  • Traditional mail– Write to 3 different people thanking them for their service
  • Phone– Call a shut-in to brighten their day

2.  When communicating in whatever form, remember the words of  Thumper.

3.  Focus your personal Bible study this week on the power of the tongue.

4.  Ask God to help you see when you are being thoughtless or careless with remarks.

Study it. Memorize it. Live it.

deep love quotes

 

 

God’s Wonderful People

Last night after dinner, Neal explained to his cousin, Naomi, that we have never lived close to our families, and that he would’ve liked our sons to have had more opportunities to be with their grandparents and other family members.  Naomi replied, “But you’ve had your church family.”

Oh yes, we have had our church family!  Whether in AL, VA, or CO, we’ve had brothers and sisters and role models and friends.  When we were young newlyweds and then new parents, we had couples take us under their wing and act as our own parents would.  Our boys have had adopted grandparents and mentors.  What a treasured blessing!  But that’s just one aspect of the beauty of the Lord’s church.  Consider some other blessings of being in God’s Family:

  • Continual support and encouragement (Heb. 10:24,25)
  • The much sought after feeling of belonging and community (Eph. 2:19)
  • Being with people who try to treat others with love, honor, and respect (Rom. 12:10)
  • Available help in time of need (Rom. 12:13)
  • Never having to suffer alone (Rom. 12:15; 1 Cor. 12:26)
  • A feeling of usefulness and purpose (1 Cor. 12:14-25)
  • Togetherness, devotion (Acts 2:42-47)
  • Fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7)
  • Always having family (1 Tim. 5:1,2)
  • Being loved even when unlovable (John 13:34,35)
  • Being in God’s household (Eph. 2:19-22)
  • Pure and sincere love (1 Pet. 1:22)

Sometimes relationships in physical families are severed for various reasons.  Or sometimes it’s just not possible to be with our physical family as often as we’d like because they live so far away.  But God’s Family is God’s gift to us.  In God’s Family we always have loving relationships.

Sadly, some have not felt the love or sense of belonging in their church family.  If this is the case for you, there are a couple of things you can do:

  1.  Make sure you are doing your part to reach out, love, serve, and sacrifice for your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Sometimes we are quick to point out when others let us down but neglect to consider our own lack of involvement.  Maybe no one called you when you missed a service or two.  Before feeling indignant, do some soul-searching.  How many people did you call that week?  Focus on being an active, loving, giving member of your local congregation.
  2. Remember the church is worldwide.  Perhaps you worship with a small congregation and when experiencing a difficult situation you received little to no support (and maybe even received criticism or were the object of gossip).  In those cases, it helps to remember that the Lord’s family consists of more than just your local congregation.  There may be another one in the next town over.  You can find brothers and sisters (and their love and support) nearby and worldwide.  Look for strong, encouraging members and groups on Facebook.  Write letters of encouragement to stateside missionaries or those serving on foreign lands.  There are all kinds of ways to connect and serve in God’s Family.

God’s people are wonderful.  None of us are perfect, and we may even let each other down occasionally, but I’m thankful for this blessing of our dear church family.  I can’t help but think that if we each strive to be even more close and loving in the Lord’s church, those in the world around us will want to enjoy this blessing, too.

Photo credit:  Tracy Threlfall

Photo credit: Tracy Threlfall

Are Christians Your Favorite People?

Have you ever spent time around a couple or a family that ridiculed each other?  Whether it was under the guise of teasing or flat-out verbal lashing, you could feel the tension and contempt.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it.  I don’t like being around couples that mock each other in such a way as to make a point.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t like being around families that have nothing but scorn for one another.  It makes me want to run away.  And it’s just so sad.  Where’s the love and respect?  What have they experienced together that created such bitterness?  It makes me shake my head.

May Christians never treat each other in such a way that our non-Christian friends shake their head.  The church is the household of God (Eph. 2:19), and we’re to treat each other brotherly, sisterly, fatherly (1 Tim. 5:1,2).  We’re to “love one another with brotherly affection” and “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).  These aren’t just words to read but actions to put into practice!  How does the world SEE us loving and honoring fellow Christians?

In an effort to keep from being seen as harsh and judgmental, we’ve gotten good at extending grace to the worldly.  Let’s not neglect to extend grace to our brothers and sisters in Christ as well.  Instead of being quick to publicly point out what Christians are doing wrong or how they’ve let us down, shouldn’t we be working hard to show the world that fellow Christians are our favorite (John 13:34,35)?

I just don’t think that “fighting the good fight” means fighting each other.  In the same chapter, Paul warns against those who have an “unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction” (1 Tim. 6:4,5).  In the same chapter, Paul encourages us to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (v. 11).  That’s how we “fight the good fight of faith” (v. 12).  That’s how we “keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14).

Because we have received grace, let’s freely extend grace to all, Christian and non-Christian alike.  Let’s draw the world to Christ by showing them something they’ll want to have for themselves.  I’m naturally drawn to couples and families that are kind and loving toward each other.  I want to be with them.  I want to learn from them and share in their joy.  What an opportunity we have as Christians to attract others to Christ by the way we honor, promote, love, and lift up each other!

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10, emphasis mine).

Thanks to Christa Bassett for the photo.

Thanks to Christa Bassett for the photo.

 

A Nagging Woman is in the House

“Hen-pecked” is great imagery because it’s easy to picture that sharp-beaked chicken peck, peck, pecking an innocent bystander.  The Bible minces no words when describing the nagging woman.  No one wants to be around her (Prov. 21:9) and she is as annoying as a continual drip on a rainy day (Prov. 27:15).

Godly wives try to avoid nagging.  We don’t want to make our husbands miserable and we know God expects us to respect and honor them (Eph. 5:33).  But I don’t think the home is the only place where nagging women can be found.  Nagging involves persistent fault-finding, criticizing, grumbling, and harassing.  If we’re not careful, we can become the constant dripping in the church.  The shrew on the pew:

  • Watches members with a critical eye.  You can see her lift her eyebrows when she spies a teen with an odd hairstyle or a youth minister laughing too loudly.
  • Knows what’s best for everyone.  She tsk-tsks at the antics of young couples or the decisions made by the elders.  She doubts most people really know what they’re doing.
  • Stirs up trouble.  She can’t seem to help dropping a whispered word here and there questioning the character of unsuspecting brothers and sisters.
  • Is never satisfied.  In her mind, no one calls enough, visits enough, or cares enough.
  • Doubts the sincerity of others.  When others offer a kind word or gesture, she questions their motives or assumes they’re only duty-driven.

Harpies in the house of the Lord create an unwelcome, harsh environment.  Women truly play a big role in the overall tone of the church.  Am I compassionate and encouraging?  Or am I quick to peck God’s family to death?

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for women who demonstrate Your love to all the saints.