Worship Today: Family

We often talk about all the great things about getting together with family for celebrations and holidays. And we should. But families go through struggles, too. Family requires commitment, sacrifice, and humility.

The effort is worth it.

The Process of Death

a00d8978bbbaa9bbd45840020f0e4c0bWhoever tries to make his life secure will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luke 17:33)

How have you experienced death in your life?

What feelings do you associate with death?

What has changed in your life as a result of death?

No matter how sudden and jarring death might seem, it involves a process. There’s a process of preparation we may or may not see, and there is a process of coping, healing, and readjustment that many of us know well but are still confused by it at times. Just like birth, death isn’t as clear cut as we think it may be. It’s not just the biggies of physical death but is a series of smaller deaths. We sometimes inadvertently let things die in our lives because of our inattentiveness. And we sometimes intentionally let things die in our lives because we believe we must in order to move on.

Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are not. We let things die that need to live and keep things alive we need to let die.

As far as God is concerned, we need to give up ourselves so that He can prevail in our lives. We claim that we’ve put Him first when we determine we’ll follow Him, but that one claim is followed by many, many additional choices and opportunities. With each one, we can decide to maintain ourselves, put ourselves and our own interests and perspectives first, or set ourselves aside to yield to Him. We get to choose how thoroughly we become less so that He becomes more in our lives. Death is never easy, but just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not hopeful and productive. When in the context of faith in God, death makes way for life. Sacrifice gives way to hope. Humility gives way to faith.

What do you need to give up for God? It might be something tangible and measurable, or it might be an attitude, entitlement, position, or pride. Claim what it is. Let God challenge you. Then, make a decision. Maybe you’re uncertain about giving it up altogether, or maybe you simply don’t see how it can be done. Take a step. Just one step. Facing the long road ahead might seem daunting, but taking one step right now is doable. Sometimes you can’t see the next step until you’ve taken a step and are in a new place. Your perspective changes, one step at a time.

Stop and Consider God’s Wonders

283028It’s a reminder from Job 37:14: Stop and consider God’s wonders.

It is both a direction and challenge for us. It takes humility and boldness, pause and involvement, the ability to identify God’s wonders and the willingness to be grateful for them. It’s a similar motivation to keeping a blessings journal. It goes beyond looking at life with a positive appreciation and delving into what God and only God can be and do. His wonders don’t always feel warm and wonderful, because we stand in awe of His power, fierceness, and justice. Those are part of His wonder, too. We can’t twist God’s wonders to be only those things that we find amazingly wonderful. He defines amazing, and He fills wonder. We particularly find it when we’re willing to empty ourselves of what we want to see as wonder. We find it when we’re willing to stop…and consider.

Stop and consider. Both present challenges that we’re not willing to accept because of the sacrifices they involve. Both are worth the wonder we’ll encounter because of our sacrifice, because of who God is.

 

There Must Be a Price

af80406bd6f130cd223051f09baa7098Everything costs something. There must be a price. Sometimes it involves money. Often, it doesn’t.

When David approached Araunah to buy his threshing floor (which is the site Solomon would later build the temple and is now a holy site for three major religions), Araunah wanted to give it to him. He saw it as an honor and act of respect for the king.

The king answered Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for 20 ounces of silver. (2 Samuel 24:24)

Anything worthy of offering to God costs us something. It has great worth. Anything we do that we think doesn’t involve God also has a price and costs us something.

There must be a price. It’s why Jesus died. Sin costs. Grace costs. Life costs.

Maybe we don’t want to acknowledge the price, and maybe we don’t want to pay it, but faith (and the lack of it) costs us. Faith is worth the sacrifice.

Connections Over Time and Distance

1-Samuel-22--e1420912619919.jpgEach year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. (1 Samuel 2:19)

Hannah dedicated her son to God and followed through by placing Samuel in Eli the priest’s care and training. The separation must have been difficult. She and her husband when to see Samuel each year, and Eli would bless them. They would return home.

It’s as if Hannah continued to give over and over. She continued to sacrifice over and over. She chose to keep her commitment to God over and over. Yet it must have been tough.

We often have to let go of people in some ways, yet we can also provide for and connect with them even as we let go. We connect via memories and promises. We continue to move forward with a string that connects us to the past, not to keep us there but to also connect us to the future. We don’t camp under; we persevere through. We don’t stay in the moment but proceed into more.

How do you need to stay connected to your commitment to God despite (or because of) time and distance?

The Pen of Grace

I forgot my pencil.

I have a bag designated for Bible study, which just started a few weeks ago. I’m not quite in the routine yet. I didn’t put an extra pencil in the side pouch as usual, and I left my appointment book in the van after referring to it before beginning my drive. I always have a pencil tucked into that book.

I arrived to study early, toting coffee for a busy young mom who wouldn’t have extra time to stop for it. I sat in the circle and connected with others as they arrived. When it was time to begin study, I’ll pulled out my notes and my….lack of pencil.

I’m fairly particular about my writing utensils. In fact, I might qualify as a writing utensil snob. I thought, “Surely, I didn’t forget a pencil of all things. Surely, I put an extra one in my bag.”

I searched.

No pencil, pen, marker, crayon, or eye or lip liner!

By the time I admitted my fault, discussion had already begun.

“Umm…I’m so sorry to interrupt, but doesn’t anybody have a pencil or something they would please lend me?”

The woman directly across from me enthusiastically extended her pen to me. (I don’t really like pens all that much, but I certainly wasn’t going to be picky.) It was a nice pen. I said thank you, and conversation began, but I quickly interrupted again,

“So sorry, but I just realized I won’t have anything to take notes with later during the lecture. Do you mind…?”

The question trailed off as she assured me she didn’t want it back. It was mine. She had plenty.

The pen wrote nicely. It was one of those a company has spent a pretty penny on to get their name out to the community. I looked across the circle. My pen friend was contentedly writing with a cheap stick pen.

I refused to interrupt again, but as soon as discussion closed, I pleaded with her to exchange with me. I promised her I’d return it the following week. Oh, wait. I would miss the next two weeks. I was beginning to feel like I was full of excuses and neediness.

She smiled the whole time and, finally, firmly said, “It is yours. I want to give it to you. Please accept it.”

She gave up her best.

And I realized she was an example of grace.

A pen might not seem like a big thing, until it becomes a reminder of something much bigger.

 

Endure For a Little While

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

It sounded like the roofers were coming through our roof.

I stepped outside to check on the progress, and I heard an even louder banging. Our neighbor had someone in his old cistern, breaking it apart with a jackhammer, causing loud booms to echo as the sounds ricocheted among the houses. I heard beeping down the street and glanced to see a city backhoe working on a corner. In the other direction, two construction trucks pulled into a yard to begin working on a front porch.

I felt sorry for anyone in the neighborhood who expected a quiet day. We live in a typically calm area.

There are seasons in our lives that cause a lot of noise and distraction. Those seasons affect people around us, too. As distracting and annoying as the noise can be, in order to grow, we need to endure and invest in those times. Without a new roof, we won’t enjoy the protection through rain, wind, and several feet of snow. Without the demolished old cistern, our neighbor won’t be able to trust the foundation of the new part of his house. Without the backhoe, the water line can’t be maintained and relied upon.

Without intentional maintenance and sacrificial investment, our faith doesn’t grow. We may not like those raucous times when everything seems inconvenient and overwhelming, but God uses those situations and experiences to remind us of His protection…break down what’s getting in the way in order to build something more solid…regularly check, maintain, and improve the lines of communication and nourishment we need to thrive.

What we endure in faith for and with God has eternal consequences that help us every single day.