The “One Anothers”

heartWhen asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus replied “Love the Lord your God”. He went on to say that loving one’s neighbor as one’s self is the second greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-39). It is interesting that when asked about which was the first, He went on to add the second. From this we gather the importance of the second as well as the first. But loving unspecified others is hard, especially for an introvert like me. What does it even mean, to love others?

Last night while reading John MacArthur’s wonderful book Saved Without a Doubt: Being Sure of Your Salvation, I came upon a list of what he calls the ‘One Anothers’ that outlines the Biblical answer to the question of what God expects when He commands us to love our neighbors.

Here is what we are to do:

  • confess our sins to one another (James 5:16),
  • forgive one another (Col. 3:13),
  • bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2),
  • rebuke one another (Titus 1:13 NIV),
  • comfort one another (1 Thess. 4:18),
  • encourage one another to do good (Heb 10:24-25),
  • edify one another (Rom 14:19 NIV),
  • counsel one another (Rom 15:14),
  • submit to one another (Eph 5:21 NIV),
  • instruct one another (Col 3:16)
  • be hospitable to one another (1 Peter 4:9-10),
  • bear with one another (Col 3:12-13),
  • pray for one another (James 5:16),
  • serve one another (Gal 5:13).

May God Bless your efforts.

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Little Pieces, Big Picture

Mosaic CloseupToday I listened to a speaker that likened our lives to a beautiful mosaic. In the midst of our everyday decision making, problem solving, advice giving, comfort seeking lives, we are pressed up closely to the mosaic, which is made up of all the events of our lives. We see only the small section of the mosaic that is directly before as us we wonder how the events and challenges we are working with today can ever fit harmoniously in with the tiny bits and pieces we see in front of us.

Of course, we all know that we must step back from a mosaic to view its image. When we do that, we no longer see the individual chips and pieces but rather the beautiful overall image created by the sum of the pieces. Yet even knowing this, stepping back from one’s own life to glimpse the big picture is so much easier said than done. The everyday happenings that demand our attention keep our noses firmly pressed against the small section of the mosaic on which we must focus today.

Some time ago I wrote a post about my crazy-strong desire to be able to play a musical instrument coupled with my complete inability to do so. Sometimes when I listen to the radio, the beauty of the music or words or both is so powerful and the disappointment that I cannot play or sing so strong that I have to turn it off.

mosaic purple flowerRecently, I went to the hospital because of a sudden blinding pain running down my left arm from my shoulder to the tips of my fingers. Eventually the fingers of my hand became numb and lost feeling. Doctors diagnosed degenerative joint disease of the spine causing the branch of nerves that runs from the spine down the left arm to be pinched between the bony vertebra of the spine and the disc. With treatment that included injecting a steroid into the root of the nerve where it branches from the spine, the worst of the pain is gone but I am left with a constant painful tingling and lack of feeling in the index finger and thumb of my left hand. Whenever I touch anything, be it the keys of a keyboard or even the running water when I wash my hands, I feel a buzzing jolt similar to when a leg or arm has fallen asleep, as we say, and is inadvertently knocked up against something. Of course the doctors cannot say for certain what will happen, but this condition frequently recurs and often progresses over time as the discs continue to degenerate. There is no known cure.

Now, in light of this condition, my inability to play an instrument begins to seem like a blessing. I cannot image having such a wonderful gift and developing it over years of practice only to suddenly lose it. Further, I now consider myself fortunate to have been given the desire to play because it led me to take music lessons with my sons, something I very much enjoyed. Finally, the big picture emerges. At long last I realize that I did gain something valuable from a lack of ability that caused me so much consternation over the years.

Does this mean I am now at peace with my everyday challenges knowing that they all contribute perfectly to the mosaic that is my life? Not at all. I have this insight for a moment, but soon it will be gone again. In the very near future I will again find myself with my nose pressed up against the mosaic, studying the interplay of the many tiny pieces in my search for direction. I comfort myself by thinking that having seen the big picture this once, the next time I may see it more readily. Perhaps, in time, I will come to know that the link between my current struggles and the good that comes from them is always there, whether I see it or not.

God Is Home

Earlier this week, I read a piece by Charles Spurgeon on Deuteronomy 33:27, “The eternal God is thy refuge.” I tend to think of a refuge as some sort of fort or other protected place, but, in this particular piece, Spurgeon explains that the root of the word refuge goes more toward mansion or abiding place—the place where we live. As he says, “there is a fullness and sweetness” in the metaphor of God as a home rather than a fortress. I suffer from an anxiety disorder, so home has always been my safe place, the place where I feel most at ease, and I was immediately drawn to this idea of God as a home. Just as I take shelter in my home, I can take shelter in God. That’s right—in God.  As Spurgeon points out, God is our abode, our home, and we live in Him.

One of my favorite points is this: at home we can speak our hearts without worry about being misunderstood because we are with our loved ones who know us best and cherish us. It is even more so with God. We can communicate freely with Him because He understands us more deeply than any other and cherishes us more than any other.

The last point Spurgeon makes is that our home is what motivates us to get up and go to work in the morning. We work to maintain our home, to make it our cozy “refuge” from the troubles and trials of this world. Likewise, by thinking about God as our home, we desire to work harder to accomplish His work, to maintain our home in Him.

How warm and comforting it is to think of God this way. Yet, I struggle to keep this in mind as I enter the worldly fray each morning. As I pursue my Christian journey, in fits and starts, I feel myself diverging farther from the worldly path, the politically correct path, the publicly sanctioned path. I feel disconnected. I think that’s why it is so important to connect with other Christians—so that we can encourage each other and remind each other that God is home.

Separation

I have a selection from Charles H. Spurgeon’s book, “Morning and Evening”, delivered to my inbox daily. To my regret, I do not always read it, but when I do, I never fail to find something amazing in its relevance to modern life.

…the world loves not the non-conformity of nonconformity, or the dissidence of dissent; it would have us be more charitable and not carry matters with too severe a hand. Death to the world, and burial with Christ, are experiences which carnal minds treat with ridicule, and hence the ordinance which sets them forth is almost universally neglected, and even condemned. Worldly wisdom recommends the path of compromise, and talks of “moderation.” According to this carnal policy, purity is admitted to be very desirable, but we are warned against being too precise; truth is of course to be followed, but error is not to be severely denounced. “Yes,” says the world, “be spiritually minded by all means, but do not deny yourself a little gay society, an occasional ball, and a Christmas visit to a theatre. What’s the good of crying down a thing when it is so fashionable, and everybody does it?” –Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

With each passing year I feel more and more the divergence of modern American beliefs from Christian doctrine, so it is stunning to see the same observation made 150 years before this thought occurred to me. Everything happens with God’s perfect timing, but I wonder at the disparity between His time-frame and mine. It seems to me the divide grows deeper every day and yet it has been going on for 150 years, longer in fact. How long will it continue and how wide will the rift become?

And what will be the final result? I look at my modern-day life of work, government, schools (for grandbabies), movies, music, books, and personal rights and wonder how long I can continue to live what passes for a “normal” life in America while still practicing my beliefs. When will my fellow citizens start to view me as odd, or quirky, or dangerous?

 When the town is on fire, our house cannot be too far from the flames. When the plague is abroad, a man cannot be too far from its haunts. The further from a viper the better, and the further from worldly conformity the better. To all true believers let the trumpet-call be sounded, “Come ye out from among them, be ye separate.” –Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

 

Writing 101 Day 12 — Testimony

Writing 101 Day 12 Conversations and Foreshadowing 

When I think back to the day my life changed forever, it couldn’t have been a more ordinary day. When I was a child of about ten, my parents stopped going to church. I have some memories of going to church as a family, but very few. Around the dinner table, my mother and father would openly question the existence of God–conversations that I now wish I had never heard but thought nothing of at the time.

As the years slipped away, I moved away from home, graduated college, got married, and had two children of my own. Despite my lack of a religious upbringing, I did  notice that some people seemed to get a lot out of their faith. It was an important and highly valued part of their lives. I wondered if it might be that way for two my sons someday. I made a promise to myself that if either of my boys ever expressed an interest in going to church, I would take them.

One day when my oldest son was in fourth grade, he came to me and said he wanted to go to church. Remembering my promise, I told him I would find a church for us to go to that Sunday–but he wasn’t finished with the conversation yet. “If I don’t go to church, I’ll grow in body but not in spirit,” he said. And that was it. That conversation with a ten-year old boy set in motion the events that would change my life in more ways that I could even begin to imagine.

 

Writing 101 3 songs: God and Heavy Metal

My first song is from a phase of my life that has ended. For the first 50 years of my life I loved heavy metal. It really clicked with me that it was both empowering and tongue-in-cheek; a lot of people don’t get the tongue-in-check part. This is american/british heavy metal I’m talking about here–not that black metal stuff from the Scandinavian countries.

So, the first song is “All Around the World” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not technically heavy metal but I love this band. Several years ago they were playing at a small venue in this area. My two sons and my daughter-in-law are big fans as well so we all decided to go to the concert. My daughter–in-law agreed to get there early and wait on line for the tickets. I instructed her to get tickets as close as possible to the stage regardless of the cost–at my age, I don’t sit on the lawn. Well, what is closest to the stage? The mosh pit.

When she came back with 4 pit tickets I was so freaked out I almost gave my ticket to someone else. The kids persuaded me to go and when we arrived at the concert and were in line to get into the pit, there is a huge warning sign that says “Moshing Entertainment is Dangerous. Enter at your own risk”. Again, I almost bolted. We had friends with seats in the stands and I was going to swap with one of them, but again my kids convinced me to give it a try.

In we went. The two warm up bands were terrible, and then the Chilies took the stage. They started out with a couple of slow-ish songs. We had gotten there early so we were near the front. For the third song they launched into “All Around the World” and the crowd went nuts. We were so close to the stage I could see the sweat fly off Anthony Kiedas. My youngest son swears to this day swears that he felt the music blow back his clothes. It was amazing. By far the best concert I ever attended….and I have attended concerts since the 1970’s. The fact that my kids were there with me, made it just that much more amazing.

Okay, fast forward to the second half of my life. I had a conversion experience and overnight I lost nearly all desire to listen to any music except praise and worship. Very occassionally, like a few times a year, I may feel like listening to something else, but it is very rare. So my absolute favorite now is Amazing Grace. Just a beautiful, hopeful song. The part about when we’ve been here 10,000 years, bright shinging as the the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise, then when we’d just begun–that’s my favorite. When I think about being in the physical presence of God, the longing is so sweet.

Within praise and worship music, I love southern gospel the most. I love the instrumentals that go with them, the upbeat message, and the “tight harmony” of the family groups. I had picked a favorite in this category, but now that I’m writing  this, there are so many to choose from I can’t decide. Johnny Cash did an entire album called something like ‘A Visit to the Holy Land’ that has a lot of great songs and the family groups that are able to achieve the tight harmony because they are genetically related are just amazing–especially when they are sung acapella. So, I’m going to go with the song I picked before I started to digress, which is Keith Urban’s version of “I’ll Fly Away”. Again, the thought of someday gazing on the face of God is so powerful.

As a side note, I’d like to mention that there are numerous secular muscians out there that have had a moment where they seem to have been touch by God. Eric Clapton sings that “God will bend your knee” and Meat Loaf has the amazing “Where Angels Sing”. Then there’s Audio Slave. I contend that their first album is almost all praise and worship music, but few people recognize it as such. To me, it’s pretty obvious in “Show Me how to Live”, but others such as “Like a Stone” and “I am the Highway”, to my mind, are about Christian religion. And the best part–it’s heavy metal. Lead singer is from Sound Garden an the band is from Rage Against the Machine. When a talented musician is inspired by God, the result is going to be great.