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Posts Tagged ‘Christian Service’

(Steve and I are enjoying time with family this week.  I’ll return soon with  new posts.  Meanwhile, I’ll reblog previous ones.  Hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.  The following post was first published June 13, 2013.)

From stage left, she crosses the platform in confident strides.  One hand waves in sweeping arcs to the large audience. The crowd claps and cheers.

In the other hand, with confident ease, she holds the microphone.  And the smile—big and broad, bright white teeth visible even from the balcony.

Able to sing like a nightingale and articulate truth with conviction. Impacting thousands.

Now there is someone God is using in a powerful way, whispers an accusing voice.  Look at her significant contribution in the Kingdom of God. No doubt she’s highly valuable to him.  So what are you doing that’s important?  Your spot in the scheme of things is nothing compared to that shining star on the stage.  You might as well face the truth:  You are unimportant.  The ship of Significance has passed you by.

Sound the least bit familiar? You’re not alone. Demons use those same lies on a lot of us. Evil spirits aren’t very creative, are they?

But here’s the truth of the matter:

Each of us is the workmanship of God (Ephesians 2:10). The Greek word, workmanship, sometimes has the connotation of “work of art.” You are a work of art—carefully designed and meticulously executed.

The verse goes on to explain we’ve been created to do good works. It does not say the same work. Diversity of personality, talent, and interest are necessary among the children of God in order that all his plans are accomplished.

He made each of us unique, to fulfill a personalized plan. Every now and then we see such a plan unfold so clearly, we know God engineered the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a unique set of talents or gifts that work together sublimely to meet a need.

Take, for example, the naturally talented writer, who happened to grow up in a bilingual home, and studied Christian Education in college. She was especially prepared by God to write Spanish curriculum for a Christian publishing company.

Other times the plan is much less obvious, and we must trust that the task before us–caring for our families, teaching that Sunday School class, working at the homeless shelter–is indeed accomplishing divine purpose.

What we can know for certain:  each of us is valuable to God (Matthew  10:29-31).

Believe that he has prepared in advance good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).  Take joy and satisfaction from completing those good works.

It may not be walking across a stage with a microphone. It might mean walking across the kitchen with a rolling pin—to bake cookies for the neighbors.

That’s just a small, insignificant thing, you say?

Think about this: What if God takes particular pleasure in small things?

Personally, I’m fascinated by small things. Miniatures, doll houses, petit-point, babies!

Scripture gives us indication that God does indeed love small things as well:

Sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

Two little mites given by a widow (Mark 12:41-44).

Five small barley loaves and two small fish (John 6:1-13).

Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

Let’s never again allow those little demons of abasement to put us down. God has promised: “I will bless those who fear the Lord—small and great alike” (Psalm 115:13, emphasis added).

You see, in God’s sight, we’re of equal worth.

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“Katherine, I’m terribly sorry, but there’s nothing else to do. We have no money to hire a nursemaid for you children, and now that your mother is gone…”  His voice trailed off.

Is that what Hans von Bora told his five-year old daughter?  No record has been left.  We do know that, in 1504, after the death of her mother, Katherine was sent to a convent in Nimbschen, Germany. At age nine, she was transferred to Convent Marienthron, where she took her vows and became a nun. Katherine was just sixteen years old.

Katherine’s duties gave her opportunity to learn management and care of a large estate, since the convent owned much property. Proceeds covered the expenses for the forty-four nuns and forty servants.  They also made a profit.

About this time a tract was secretly passed among the young nuns titled, “The Monastic Life, and the Marriage of Priests, Nuns and Monks.” Monks, nuns, and clergy should be free to marry, it said. Marriage should be kept; it is monasteries that should be given up.

As this message spread it was not just monasteries that began to empty but convents also. Twelve nuns from Marienthron chose to escape on Easter evening, in April of 1523.  Among them was Katherine. Three of the young women were returned to their families, the other nine secretly delivered by wagon under cover of night to a nearby town. It happened to be the home of the monk who wrote the tract, and he took personal responsibility to see that the nine nuns were well taken care of.

Husbands were found for some of the women; others were given positions in households. Katherine was in the latter group. One suitor, a university student, did court Katherine that summer. A deep friendship grew between them, but when he returned to school, Katherine never heard from him again. Perhaps his parents did not approve of a marriage between their son and a former nun.

Was Katherine’s heart broken after this first experience of love?  Did she wonder why God would allow such a painful turn of events?  Again, no record exists.  We can only surmise that Katherine felt great disappointment as would any young woman in such circumstances.

Several other suitors came forward, but Katherine was content to stay and work in the home of the Lucas Cranach family.

Meanwhile, the monk who wrote the tract about marriage had left the monastery. He was considering taking a bride himself. Katherine let it be known that she was interested, as affection for the caring man had developed during the two years she had known him.

On June 15, 1525, the couple announced their engagement before five witnesses.   Immediately following was the wedding!

An abandoned Augustinian cloister was given to the couple for their home. Katherine became mistress of this virtual estate.  (The first floor alone contained forty rooms with cells above.)

Eventually every room was occupied, not just by their own six children, but by widows, students, and orphans that the couple took in. In fact, Katherine and her husband adopted four orphaned children from their relatives.

Can you imagine caring for so many people—without such appliances as stove, refrigerator, washer, or dryer?

But God had prepared Katherine to manage the estate.  Remember her duties at Marienthron Convent?  Katherine  was on the go from daybreak to night, overseeing the multitude of household responsibilities, the animals, a large garden, the brewery, and large parcels of land she purchased in order to grow grain for the animals.

That’s not all. Katherine ministered to the needs in her community, giving care to the sick and counsel to the hurting.

She made it possible for her husband to travel, preach, and teach, knowing that all would be well taken care of at home.

Day after day, for twenty years, Katherine served others in and around her home.   How ironic that one of the few quotes of Katherine von Bora which has survived the centuries should be:

“I’ve read enough [of the Bible]. I’ve heard enough. I know enough. Would to God I lived it.”

According to the historical record, Katherine most certainly lived by the truth of God’s Word. Who can deny her courage, perseverance, love of others, and servant’s heart?  She stands as a worthy example for us to follow.

Katherine’s husband grew to appreciate her greatly and love her deeply. He called her “Kittie, My Rib” and  “The Morning Star of Wittenberg.”

Does the name of their hometown sound familiar? Wittenberg was the home of Martin Luther.

The husband of Katherine von Bora was none other than Martin Luther himself.

 

(Sources:  www.the-highway.com, http://www.rpmministries.org, http://www.helios.augustana.edu, http://www.lutheranhistory.org, http://www.thegospelcoalition.org, http://www.haventoday.org.  Art credit:  www.lutherin.de.)

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(As most of you know, Steve is retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Very shortly we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. If our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks. But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 5-16-13.)
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“With every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see”

(Ella Wheeler Wilcox, author and poet, 1850-1919).

Observation #1:

We never know when a small deed may plant a seed of faith or encouragement. We never know when that seed will reap a bountiful harvest in the life of someone else.

Live attentively to the fact that every deed is a seed. The people around us are watching and listening. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of a church elder who once led a worship service for two. It happened over 150 years ago in England. A blizzard on Saturday night made it impossible for villagers to get to the church—including the pastor.

 

Oakwood_Park,_London_N14_-_snow_storm_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1146589

 

The elder almost sent home the two individuals who had come, an older man and a young boy. But something (Someone?) compelled him to speak. Later he confessed his words came out rather jumbled and brusque.

But. The elder planted a seed that immediately took root. The young boy accepted Jesus as his Savior that day. His name? Charles Spurgeon—preacher and author extraordinaire, whom God used mightily. People are still impacted by his writings to this day. (For an example of Dr. Spurgeon’s God-given genius, see the post, “Not Length But Strength,” from May 9, 1913).

 

Observation #2:

Our responsibility is the planting of “deed seeds”; the harvest is up to God.

The same principle that works in the physical realm works in the spiritual realm: A farmer may plant, fertilize, and water, but the germination of each seed is a miracle only God can bring about. Don’t become tightly focused on results.

The elder who led Charles to the Lord that snowy, wintry day, had no idea the boy would grow up to have such a profound effect on the world. The gentleman may not have lived long enough to see the results of his deed that morning. But we know, and we marvel.

 

Observation #3:

The true harvest is not measurable in physical terms, and it’s hidden from view in the spiritual realm.

Only now and then does God give us a glimpse of what our small deeds are accomplishing. Perhaps God planned it that way so pride and self-gratification do not taint the glory of the harvest.

Imagine the joy that elder continues to experience every time a saint comes through the gates of heaven–fourth and fifth generation Christians, who have been influenced by Charles Spurgeon, whose ancestors accepted Jesus because of him. In addition, thousands  have been influenced and encouraged by the preacher’s writings.

And it all began with that faithful elder.

You see, the positive influence of a man or woman of God never dies.

 

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Such a possibility should translate into enthusiastic motivation for planting seeds wherever we go.

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.wikimedia.org and http://www.wikipedia.org.)

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Does your to-do list for tomorrow include such items as:

  • Send birthday, get-well, or encouragement cards?
  • Attend a meeting or rehearsal at church?
  • Prepare for teaching a Bible study or Sunday School lesson?
  • Pick up your husband’s prescription?
  • Prepare for dinner guests?

Young woman cooking in her kitchen

Our days are often filled with small deeds. We tend to think they’re insignificant and therefore, so are we.

But that negative evaluation is not from God!

“Who despises the day of small things?” he spoke to Zechariah (4:10).

In fact, evidence indicates that God loves to take small, seemingly insignificant actions, and use them in creative, powerful ways:

  • A piece of wood thrown into bitter water turned it sweet (Exodus 15:25).
  • A cord hung from a window saved a family from destruction (Joshua 2:17-21).
  • An army of 300 defeated a powerful enemy, just by blowing trumpets and breaking clay jars to expose torchlight (Judges 7).
  • A dab of mud applied to a man’s blind eyes restored his sight (John 9).
  • Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons became healing agents as they were laid upon the sick ((Acts 19:12).

mud

It doesn’t matter that we’re not famous, wealthy, intellectual, or strong, because it is “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,'” says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

Might = strength, resources, and ability.  If that describes you, wonderful!  But those blessings alone will not guarantee significance.

Power = persistence, resolve, and consistency.  Again, if you are able to power through with effort and efficiency to accomplish much, terrific!  But what’s truly important is if the effort is achieving God’s purpose.

Granted, God has given us talents and gifts, opportunities and choices.  We must be prayerful and wise in the ways we use them.

John Wesley advised:

025-All-You-Can-John-Wesley

(“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever  you can.”)

Just remember:  apart from the Lord Almighty, we accomplish nothing worthwhile (John 15:5).

On the other hand, little is much–IF God is in it.

He rejoices in what is right, you see, not necessarily in what is big.

So, when you feel like a nobody who’s accomplishing nothing, be mindful of this:

Does the place you’re called to labor

Seem small and little known?

It is great if God is in it

And He’ll not forget His own.

–Kitty Suffield

(Art & photo credits:  www.whattoexpect.com; http://www.auyouth.com; http://www.kokabella.com.)

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You’ve heard of spiritual gifts–those special abilities the Holy Spirit endows, which equip us to serve others.  Teaching, prophecy, discernment, and healing are examples.  Altogether, the apostles Peter and Paul listed at least twenty.

May I be so bold as to suggest there may be a few more spiritual gifts than those  listed in the New Testament?

For example:

The Gift of Thoughtfulness

Oh, my.  If I started listing the number of people who have this gift, I’d be writing through the night.  But recently…

Donna and I were admiring a craft project created by a mutual friend–little dresses made out of dish towels, to hang over the oven door.  I mentioned what fun it would be to make some of those myself, but I didn’t have a machine anymore.

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“Then I want to give you mine,” she said.  “Now that I’m living with Brenda” (her daughter), “I really don’t need it.  I can use hers.”

In spite of protests (“You can sell it, Donna.”), she was insistent.  So I now have a sewing machine!

In a world of greed and selfishness, such kindness is rare–except in the family of God where the spiritual gift of thoughtfulness abounds.

 The Gift of Joy

All my friend, Grace, has to do is chuckle, and everyone nearby joins in.  Hers is the most infectious laugh I’ve ever encountered.  She also supplies plenty of material for laughter with her quick wit.

You’d never know to look at Grace’s smiling face and twinkling eyes that she frequently suffers pain.  A case of shingles that never went away completely continues to cause problems.  But Grace never complains.

How does she manage to spread so much cheer in the midst of suffering?  It’s the spiritual gift of joy, I’m sure, bubbling up from a heart focused on Jesus.

The Gift of Chicken Soup

My husband, Steve, had just been released from the hospital, after a fever that defied explanation and aspirin.  It finally broke, although its cause remained a mystery. After a few days he was released to come home.  Meanwhile,  while Steve was hospitalized, I suffered a brutal attack of stomach flu.

The two of us were sprawled on couch and recliner when Barbara called.  “I’m making chicken soup for the two of you and bringing it over this afternoon,” she announced.

“Oh, no,” I quickly replied.  “That won’t be necessary.  We’re recouping fine.”

But Barbara didn’t buy it, and the delivery was made.

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NEVER have I tasted such savory, flavorful chicken soup.  By the end of the first bowl I felt strength returning to my limp arms and legs.  By the second bowl, I was ready for jumping jacks.

OK, I’m exaggerating–but only slightly.  That soup DID rejuvenate us!  So, there’s the proof that the spiritual gift of chicken soup exists.

If we want to be technical, I suppose these gifts and others could be categorized under those listed in scripture.  Exercising thoughtfulness like Donna is surely an example of generosity (Romans 12:8).   Dispensing joy like Grace is part of the gift of encouragement (same verse).  And Barbara’s chicken soup may very well be a manifestation of the gift of healing (1 Corinthians 12:28).

It’s true:  “All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!  The variety is wonderful” (1 Corinthians 12:7, The Message).

What unique spiritual gifts have you encountered?  Share your story in the comment section below!

(Art & photo credits:  www.mintools.com; http://www.idunnocreations.com; http://www.megan-deliciousdishings.blogspot.com.)

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No doubt we would all agree:  Christmas is much more than carols, cookies, and cards.  The heart of this holiday goes even deeper than the love we express with presents.  It is a celebration of God’s inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

And those of us who accept God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, ought to live our lives with overflowing gratitude.  The motivation behind our words and deeds should be the same sacrificial love which motivated Jesus.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933, photo credit: Wikipedia)

What might that look like in everyday life?  Henry van Dyke* made several suggestions through these thought-provoking questions:

“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;

To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;

To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the foreground;

To own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—

Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.”

Ouch.  If God made these stipulations into law, and only law-abiders were allowed to celebrate Christmas, I’d be left out.  My thoughts and motivations are not always pure.  I do not consistently put others’ needs before my own.  My focus is not always on what I can give.

But Rev. van Dyke’s essay does not end on that hopeless note.  He adds one more glorious line.

“But you can never keep it alone.”

Of course not!  “We are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

However.  God does not expect instantaneous perfection, the minute we invite Jesus into our lives.  “God who began the good work within [us] will keep right on helping [us] grow in his grace until his task within [us] is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6, The Living Bible).

Hallelujah!

(Photo credit:  www.worshipkids.com)

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day.

(also by Henry van Dyke)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

*Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an author, educator, and clergyman.  His lengthy list of accomplishments included professor of English literature at Princeton, minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (by appointment of President Wilson), and author of many poems, stories, and essays. “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree.” are among his most popular works.  He also wrote the lyrics for a number of hymns, including “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  The first verse is quoted above.

 

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Last fall I read there were more than 150 million blogs on the internet, with approximately 175,000 new ones being launched daily.  At that rate, cyberspace now includes over 213 million blogs!

After much shopping, I have found twelve devotional blogs which I follow regularly.  I’ll introduce six today and six on Thursday–in no particular order.  After reading these sample bits, you might want to visit these blogs yourself, and discover fresh insight from…

IMG_1727…Jennifer Dukes Lee (www.jenniferdukeslee.com), wife of an Iowa farmer, mother of two daughters, professor of journalism, and author of a new book being released in early 2014.  Recently she wrote about “How to Talk Back to Fear:”

“I believe that bravery looks a lot like…believing.  And I believe that there’s really no such thing as failure, because there’s nothing unredeem-able in the hands of Christ.”

Smart woman, that Jennifer.

…Holley Gerth (www.holleygerth.com), life coach and author, tackled the topic, “When You’re Worried What People Think.”

First, Holley quoted 1 Corinthians 4:3 (MSG):  “It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion…Comparisons in these matters are pointless.”

Holley says.  “When I care very little what other people think of me then I’ve suddenly got room to care a lot about other people.”

Quite insightful, don’t you agree?

Unshakable Hope…Unshakable Hope (www.unshakablehope.wordpress.com), written by Bill, married more than twenty-five years, father of two daughters, diagnosed in 1996 with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  Bill has very little mobility, yet his spirit is more vibrant than ever.

On February 21, 2013, Bill wrote about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3).  They were about to be thrown into King Nebucadnezzar’s furnace and boldly proclaimed, “The God we serve is able to save us…, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (vs. 17-18).

Bill says, “For me, this is more than a great example of strong faith.  I believe this is a pattern of faith that all Christians should emulate regardless of challenges we might be facing.  We can proclaim that, ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from [insert your trial here].  BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT…we are not going to serve…doubt, fear, worry, hopelessness or anything else that destroys faith, hope, joy and peace.’

Strong words from a man of deep strength.

…Morning Story & Dilbert (http://www.morningstoryanddilbert.wordpress.com).  Kenny gleans thought-provoking posts from many sources and serves them up with a Dilbert cartoon — something for the mind and heart; something for the funny bone!

Recently Kenny included an anecdote about Abraham Lincoln, highlighting the president’s humility.  Although Lincoln was wise, responsible, and persevering, surely humility was one of the supreme qualities that contributed to his strong leadership.

Here’s the story Kenny shared:

“After the Battle of Gettysburg, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate forces were withdrawing to Virginia, and Lincoln felt that they were vulnerable. Eager to get the agony of the war over with, President Lincoln sent word to General Meade to attack.

“With his message, Lincoln also sent a personal note. ‘The order I enclose is not on record,’ said the note. ‘If you succeed, you need not publish it. Then, if you succeed, you will have all the credit of the movement. If not, I’ll take the responsibility.’”

Taking responsibility for failure, but giving others the credit for success.  Now that’s humility.

…Jean Wise of “Healthy Spirituality” (www.healthyspirituality.org), is a former nurse, but now focuses her time on writing My Photoand speaking.

On September 24, 2013, she shared the story of second-string quarterback, Kenny Guiton, of the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Opportunities to get in the game have been few for this senior, but Kenny is always prepared.  Then, on a recent Saturday, he not only had a chance to play, Kenny scored a record six touchdowns!

In contemplating Kenny’s story, Jean said, “My job is to be faithful. To enter each day relying on God’s love and guidance.  To show up every morning with an open mind and heart.  To say to our heavenly coach, ‘Here I am, Lord.  What position do you need me to play today?’  To be ready when He calls me off the bench.  To wait and let God form me as He wills till His time is right.’”

Jean’s prayer resonates with my heart, too.

Diana Trautwein…Diana Trautwein‘s musings at “Just Wondering” (www.dianatrautwein,com).  She’s the mother of three, grandmother of 8, and a graduate of seminary in mid-life.  Currently Diana serves as a spiritual director.  Her post on October 11, 2013 was titled, “Giving Permission to Say No.”  Her words of wisdom include:

“Saying ‘yes’ is central to a full, rich challenging life.  We need to say yes to lots of different things over the course of our [life] journey.”

But!  “Try as we might, we cannot do everything.  (Because God already has.)  We cannot save the world.  (There is only one Savior.)  And we must not work ourselves to death.  (We are meant to enjoy God, and glorify God, not assume responsibilities we were never designed to bear.)”

See what I mean?  Wise woman.

Please return on Thursday to meet six more outstanding bloggers!

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