On my walk this morning sunflowers caught my eye. I noticed that some of them were facing the sun and others were not.
Before noticing the sunflowers, I had been talking to God and praying for people I know and love and others I don’t know who do not have a relationship with Jesus. I was feeling so sad thinking about it that I literally started crying.
I must be honest, it’s been a while since I felt so tender and heartbroken over lost souls. I found myself crying out to God and at that moment, a trash truck passed by. As it passed, the smell was awful and made me cringe and turn away. I felt God speak as if to say, “This is what sin smells like to me and I have to turn my head away because it sickens me to see what sin does to people and how it separates me from the ones I love.”
Sin separates and if you think you are without sin, you are wrong. Every single one of us has sinned and fallen short (Romans 3:23). The difference is having repented of your sins. God wants to forgive us, but first we must see the need to be forgiven and ask. We are all slaves to that which we obey. You may choose sin which leads to death or obedience which leads to righteousness (Romans 6:16).
The Bible also tells us the following in Romans 10:9-10, 13 If we confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
You may ask where does God say confessing of sin is a requirement for salvation? It is all throughout the Bible from the very beginning starting in Genesis with Adam and Eve. People have always had a sin problem and it is the very reason Jesus came to earth and suffered death for us. Luke 5 tells us the Pharisees and their scribes were upset that Jesus was eating with sinners and complained to the disciples. Jesus said to them, “The healthy don’t need a doctor, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners into repentance.” He came to call sinners into repentance.
I did a little search on why some sunflowers face the sun and others do not. It turns out that mature sunflowers do not move with the sun throughout the day, they react more strongly to the morning sunlight and then throughout the day they face east. I believe mature Christians are much like sunflowers as we seek God in the morning and then wait expectantly for Jesus. And if you know anything about Christianity, you know our Lord Jesus will return from the east and so believers and sunflowers alike will wait.
While waiting, let us pray and not forget what it’s like to be a seeker sunflower and pray for all to come into a relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
There is great joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10
Steadfast can be defined as firmly fixed in place, immovable, not subject to change, unwavering, firm in purpose and faith.
The Bible says, You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3, NIV
Isaiah 26:3, is my very favorite scripture of all time. It was the scripture I held onto when my mom was dying, when my son was struggling in school, and many other seasons of grief and uncertainty.
And this season is no different.
I have a feeling you can relate. Let me ask you something that I ask myself.
Do you trust God enough?
Do you trust Him enough for today?
Do you trust Him enough for tomorrow?
During this season of social distancing, are we trusting God?
Like many of you, I’m missing my family and friends. I am an Ambivert and because of that, I enjoy time alone and time with people. However, whether you are an Introvert, Extrovert or Ambivert, we are all created for relationships. So I’m guessing everyone is yearning to see their people right now.
I want to encourage you to remain steadfast in trusting the Lord during this season of uncertainty. He has gone before us in this matter and knows what is on the other side. He is trustworthy and we can trust Him.
I also want to remind you that God yearns to be with us. Like I mentioned, He created us for relationship and not just for each other, but also with Him. It’s a beautiful thing to think that God wants to be with us and it’s absolutely true!
Keep your mind steadfast by reading your Bible, praying, reading your devotional, watching church online and singing songs of praise to God. Spend time with your Creator daily. I’ve found when I do these things, my heart is full and I’m able to trust God for the very day He’s given me. He doesn’t want us to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34.
Trust Him and trust in Him today and I promise you will be blessed with a peace that only comes from God.
Let us pray…God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Have you ever felt so passionate about something that you found yourself crossing the line? Possibly even to the point of being pushy?
Last year I became a Skincare Consultant. I was super excited to get started because I loved the products! Sure, there were other opportunities with direct sales companies, but this one…well it was the best and I wanted everyone to know it.
I had this thing in my head that working for the number one skincare company in N. America with the best products on the market, are pretty much going to sell themselves.
Have you ever joined something like this where you believed so much in the products that you won’t have to do a thing? Just put it out there and cha-ching the products will sell themselves.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and now I see how naïve I was to think such thoughts. And honestly, I had never been in sales before in my life.
Shortly after joining the company, I had an event at my house and invited a few friends. I wanted them to hear and see the products and fall in love with them like I did. The party went well although nobody bought a thing.
I was disappointed and tried not to show it.
I gave them samples as they left my home that night and followed up the next week.
One friend stopped responding to my texts, but that didn’t stop me from texting. I just kept right on letting her know how great the products were and the special offers we had going on at that time. I wanted her to purchase the products and find the same results I was finding in them. But she didn’t seem to be interested and when I realized I was the only one texting about these amazing products, I felt pushy and over the line.
I stopped texting and prayed about my crazy excitement of oversharing. I realized that my excitement and passion over these products was too much and I was being overly pushy.
I sent an apology text.
She didn’t reply.
I thought to myself, I have ruined this friendship and I was sad.
I prayed for my friend and for our relationship.
I realized that the only passion I should share so crazily is the love of my Savior. I found myself praying over my friends and relatives much I like did before I found my skincare business.
Do you know what happened?
My business started to grow.
Fast forward several months after my extreme pushiness, I had dinner with my friend. At dinner, she asked me about one of the products and decided to purchase. It was so pleasant to share the love of these products with someone who was ready and willing.
It was easy and much more fun!
I had put the Lord first as I believe he gave me this business opportunity and if that’s the case, He will bless it.
So the next time you find something you love and feel passionate about, take my advice and make sure you aren’t more excited about it than that of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He’s worth all the passion in the world, yet he doesn’t push his love on us.
He gently extends his arms to welcome us in the good times and in the bad.
He graciously offers his love in a way that always invites and never pushes over the line.
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God — that you believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29
Have you ever considered the power of influence or ever thought about how much influence you have over people?
While researching a few women in the Bible, I noticed the amount of influence they had on the people around them, particularly their husband and community. Here’s one example I found in 1 Kings regarding Jezebel.
No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshipping idols just as the Amorites had done-the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites. 1 Kings 21:25-26 NLT
Other translations read; urged on by his wife (NIV), pushed by his wife (The Message), his wife incited him (ESV/NASB/HCSB).
Jezebel influenced her husband into idol worship. I think Ahab knew better but allowed his wife to influence him. He should have seen it coming since Jezebel was all about Baal worship, the false god that her father worshipped. However, King Ahab allowed the influence of his wife and devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Later in 1 Kings 21:29, we see Ahab humble himself before God in true repentance.
Have you ever noticed that influencing begins in small forms and increases? You are either heading toward God with a godly influence or heading away from God with a worldly influence. Because the direction of the influence is a gradual process, you could be in way over your head before you realize it and heading in the wrong direction. Attitudes and addictions don’t happen overnight, it’s a process.
I recall a time in my life when I did not follow God. I followed the ways of this world and suffered the consequences of my bad decisions. Amazingly, God provided more grace than I deserved during that time since I made all my decisions based on worldly influences around me. I had accepted Christ as a teenager, but had gone my own way in my 20’s. Looking back, I can see where I suppressed the Holy Spirit and chose not to follow God.
This broke my mother’s heart. I found out after her death that she and my sister prayed for me during those years and I had no idea. Prayer is such a powerful tool so be encouraged to continue praying for those who need God in their lives.
I came back to God after 25 years and now my decisions are based on God’s leading and his Word. If you are a Christ follower, then you understand that we are here to further God’s kingdom and to be influencers for Christ.
Consider these three things with me regarding influence:
1. We have a great amount of influence. Influence over our households, children, work, church, and community. We need to be careful how we use our influence.
2. We are always influencing someone. Jezebel not only influenced her husband into idol worship she also raised a daughter, Athaliah, to be just like her.
3. Becoming a godly person is a process of allowing God to influence us. That’s why it’s so important to read your Bible and spend time with God daily so He can influence you and in turn you can influence others for God.
Spending time with God in the morning to start your day will have great influence on you for the rest of your day…and life.
In the morning Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I please my case to you and watch expectantly. Psalm 5:3
I am so excited!! We made a commitment to join as members of Blue Mound United Methodist Church on Sunday, November 19, 2017.
We’ve been seeking a new church to call home and we finally found it. Funny thing is, we actually found it a year ago and didn’t know it. A year ago, I was still employed at another Methodist church where we were active members. However, we attended a wedding at this quaint little church last October and fell in love with it then. When my employment ended earlier this year, we started seeking and visiting churches. There are many good churches out there, but it’s sort of like looking for a home and you know it when you find it. Our new church reminds us of a small church we once attended.
Now keep in mind I’m not one of those who loves only small churches. There are many benefits to small churches. However, I love all that comes with a growing church. It’s very exciting to see a church congregation grow and to see people use their spiritual gifts and talents to further God’s work and kingdom.
In today’s reading of God’s Word, I came across 1 Corinthians 9:1-27. There were a few verses that really jumped off the page to me such as verse 14, In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Let me ask you something. Are you supporting your Pastor? I know for a fact that the congregation I just joined is doing so. They completely love him and will make sure that he and his family are taken care of. How do I know this? I can tell by the way he preaches. In verses 16-19, Paul explains that preaching is not something he can boast about, he is compelled to do it, and says how terrible of him if he doesn’t. Paul goes on to say that even though he is a free man, he has become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ.
My new pastor has the heart of a preacher like Paul. I barely know him. But what I do know after having a meal with him, having coffee with him, hearing him preach a dozen or so times, is that he is called to share and preach Jesus Christ and does so beautifully. I am praying for his zeal to continue to share the gospel each week and for many to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’m super excited to see what God does in this little congregation as I’m expecting an abundance of unprecedented growth. I believe it to be true that wherever Jesus is preached, people will come, and the church will receive more.
This message is not new.
People are drawn to the gospel.
They come to church seeking.
There’s nothing more powerful and life-changing than the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All are welcome to join us Sunday mornings at 10:45am.
I do everything I can to spread the Good News and share in it’s blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:23
My husband’s grandpa served as pastor for approximately 45 years. Grandpa Thomas knew adversity and had overcome several obstacles during his life. He was a strong yet tender man and he had a saying that I remember him saying several times; “church work is the hardest work”.
I didn’t understand what he meant at that time, but I certainly do now. You see I worked on church staff for six years as the Director of Congregational Care and Adult Discipleship in the Methodist Church. I came on staff after being a member of my church for five years. I don’t have a seminary degree, I just have a heart to serve Jesus. I’ve led Bible studies for many years and do my best to be a faithful and obedient servant and apply the Word of God. I have a wonderful husband and family and they support me in whatever I want to do and wherever God is calling me.
I have contemplated and prayed carefully over this post. I have sought God to be sure this honors Him. The purpose of this writing is to help others who either work in the church or care about the behind-the-scenes activities in the church.
I want to express love and respect for those I served and those I served with on staff. I believe there are many who are serving on church staff who feel isolated and alone on their journey. My hope is this will help those who are currently working in the church to feel understood. I also hope that this will help those who love the church and want to support their church staff.
From my experience on staff, I found that not many are willing to publicly share their journey of working on staff in the church. It seems taboo to speak of the happenings inside the church and quite frankly, I’ve heard church members express that they don’t want to know what is going on behind the Sunday morning experience. They don’t want to know the politics of running a church or the business aspect of making it happen from week to week. Some don’t want it to interrupt their spiritual experience. If that’s the case, don’t read this post and I completely love you anyway.
This is primarily written for the men and women who show up and do the work of a church staff person. They are not ordained or appointed ministers. They are quiet servants who may or may not have their pictures published in the church bulletin, newsletter, or website. However, they are the ones who make the work of the church happen. They care, they pray, they tithe to their workplace, they live ministry every day and often feel no one cares, no one sees, and no one notices. They know that ultimately, they do the work for God. This gives them fuel for a while.
One day they start to realize they are tired and their energy is depleted and they start to wonder if it’s all worth it.
They want to continue but they are tired.
This is where I found myself.
And there’s a name for it…ministry burnout.
My journal entry dated February 1, 2017 ~
I am thinking about leaving the church. No, not the church in general, but the church staff position in which I serve.
I have had it.
I am burned out.
I am done.
I have given nearly six years of my life and it feels like 60.
So, what happened to the excitement and passion I felt at the beginning of this journey? Let’s go back and see how it began.
~ The Beginning ~
I started working in the United Methodist Church as Congregational Care Coordinator. I remember so vividly the excitement of my first Sunday on staff and thinking how cool it was to get paid to love on these people. I even told those closest to me, “I get to talk to people for four to five hours on Sunday morning and someone pays me to do this.” I thought, what gives? This is awesome! I love listening to people, caring for them, and hearing about what is going on in their lives. This is the greatest job ever!!
~ One month later ~
I was asked to take on the role of Adult Discipleship. You know how it goes when a church staff person leaves and someone must fill the job because there isn’t enough money to hire someone specifically for that role. I said “yes” with one condition, that I would not allow myself to become so overworked that I would neglect myself spiritually or physically. I saw what happened to other staff persons. I recall very specifically persons who did not take care of themselves as they worked themselves to death caring for others. I did not want that to happen to me so I expressed that I would not neglect these areas of my life. I did not feel God was calling me to be a martyr in this way.
Now as I look back, I see such wisdom in those words.
If only I would have applied them.
~ Over the years ~
I don’t know many times I sat with loved ones who were grieving.
I don’t know how many funerals I organized/attended.
I don’t know how many people I helped in the way of benevolence.
I don’t know how many Bible studies/classes I led.
I don’t know how many people were affected by the ministries entrusted to me.
What I do know is that I found myself right here in this place of being completely done.
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
~ 2017 ~
I want to share my journal with you to show you some of the crazy roller coaster of emotions I was dealing with in trying to make it work. One minute I was thinking I can do this and felt inspired and the next minute, I felt defeated and done. During this time, I was praying, spending time with God, reading my Bible, and meeting with a prayer partner.
My journal entry dated January 1, 2017
I reposted something from Facebook today that resonated with how I am feeling. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Isaiah 43:19
My journal entry dated February 6, 2017
Today, I feel like…I can persevere through this tough season. I am just so overwhelmed with leading three classes and having trust issues with certain people. I find myself thinking that change is coming.
My journal entry dated February 12, 2017
This Sunday morning before going to work, I had a conversation with my father-in-law and told him that I may be experiencing ministry burnout. He is a very wise man who loves God and the church. He told me that if my joy is gone, then it’s time to leave. He is right and so I’m praying and asking God if my joy is gone to the point of being time for me to leave. This is where I will spend time seeking God and see where it leads.
~ The Rest of the Story ~
I’ve been praying and seeking God about what to do. After a time, away with some of the staff at a conference, it is becoming clearer to me. I feel a pull toward leaving. One staff person gave me permission to do what is best for me. In some ways, this is liberating.
A few weeks later as a new organizational chart is being put in place. I want to say “yes” and I try to say “yes” but as soon as I do, I feel sick to my stomach.
The Holy Spirit is telling me “no”.
I don’t want it to be no, so I thought I’ll just “fake it till I make it”.
It didn’t happen.
My yes on Friday turned into a no on Monday. A few things that spoke to me during that time; God’s Word in Matthew 5:37, But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’, a daily inspirational message, my devotional, and wonderful Christian friends.
A friend reminded me that my calling is bigger than any workplace. My calling comes from God and He will use me no matter where I go. This was a good reminder and one that I knew, but it takes good friends to remind us during these times. The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27:9
I gave my notice and it was not really received that day, but I had settled the matter with God and in my heart. After a few more days, it became official and my last day was March 31, 2017.
Some of the things I learned along the way was just how much God was moving and acting on my behalf. A series of events took place in order for me to leave and there is not one person to blame for my leaving. Honestly, I was just stubborn and didn’t want to leave. I loved the congregation and I loved my job, but I was tired and it was time. I recall thinking about those stubborn Israelites who didn’t want to move when God said move and I was no different. The staff and congregation were wonderful to me and gave me a very nice good-bye.
In looking back, I have often thought about what I could have done to prevent burnout. Here’s my list of recommendations:
Take a sabbatical.
I believe taking a sabbatical would have made a huge difference for me. If you are in a position of caring for people, it doesn’t matter if you are ordained in ministry or not, you must take time to be away and rest. Even Jesus did this and we read about it in Mark 6. Jesus had to get away in the boat to a remote place and rest.
Don’t say “yes” to everything.
I could have said no and kept better boundaries. Responsibilities in the church can multiply especially when members/volunteers come and go. The ministries continue and often staff is expected to continue what a member/volunteer started.
Take your days off.
Don’t work on your days off unless it’s an emergency. Put an on-call schedule in place and really take your day(s) off. Unplug and don’t check your email on your phone on your days off. This is hard because our smartphones are killing us by the way we can never unplug. We are meant to unplug.
God, Family, Work.
This was meant to be the priority for all and even for those who work in the church. We preach it to people and church staff are the first ones to break the rule. If you see your family life start to suffer, take steps to change it right away. For me working too many evenings and weekends took too much time away from my family. They never complained, but I can see where they made sacrifices over the years. Keep the priority of God, Family, Work. I know God didn’t call me to sacrifice my family, if anything, it’s my first ministry above any other ministry entrusted to me.
Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3
Some of you my fear losing your job if you put some of the above recommendations in place. Let me remind you what Proverbs 29:25 says, Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting in the LORD means safety.
Looking back I can see the hand of God moving me to a place of rest and I’m grateful that I am able to rest. I miss the people I served but I love how God is moving and stirring. In some ways, God has brought me full circle and if I had not had this experience on staff, I would have missed it.
My calling has not changed, just the vehicle in which it happens. I am called to help people move from a place of religion and tradition to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a special place in my heart to help women in their relationship with Jesus so I am going back to work on the book I started, Spiritual Makeup Bag, Beauty from the Inside Out. Who knows where it will go or if it will go anywhere. The only thing I do know is that I feel God calling me back to this book project of helping women find time each day with Him and learn how to care for their soul while caring for their skin and applying makeup.
Jesus said in John 10:10b, I have come that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jesus came to give us life and not just life eternal, but abundant life here on earth. We are meant to thrive! Thrive is the word God has given me for this time in my life and it is exactly what I plan to do in this next season.
I’m praying you will thrive too!
This post is being released on August 9, 2017 in honor of Reverend Doyle “Bob” R. Thomas who gave his life to church work. Bob was born on August 9, 1923 and entered into rest on October 1, 2000. His last sermon was based on Isaiah 41:10, Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.
He came that beautiful night in the form of a babe;
He lives today in the hearts that obey.
He knows your name and every little thought;
He loves you in a way that cannot be bought.
This gift of grace and love that lingers
Came wrapped in cloth with tiny fingers.
His presence that night brought far away men—
What a story it is and a way to begin!
It doesn’t stop there; it goes on, you see,
For Christ came and died just for you and me.
May your eyes be open to see the wondrous love
Of the Savior who was sent from heaven above.
May your ears be in tune to the beautiful sound
Of the voice of the Savior whose love abounds.
May your hearts receive hope that your Healer is here;
He has never left you and His presence is near.
May you know you are loved beyond any measure,
For Christ came that night because you are His treasure.
Good news and great joy, as the angels proclaimed,
The birth of the Christ child, in a manger he laid.
My hope and my prayer for you on this day—
May you see God’s love in a whole new way.
For the angel said to them, “Don’t’ be afraid, for look I proclaim to you the good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David”. Luke 2:10-11
O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:1-3
Like the Psalmist David, have you ever found yourself groaning and crying out to the Lord first thing in the morning? If you have, you remember exactly the time and place in which it happened. To wake up and already feel so desperate for God that you start with groaning and crying is a tough place to be. I recall a time when something was so heavy on my heart that I woke up each day burdened by it. I would give it to God before going to bed, only to wake and have it heavy on my heart again. I learned very quickly to survive the day, I had to give it to God first thing in the morning.
My son struggled in school during his first grade year. He was tested and the outcome was unknown for his future. I was desperate for God. I needed his guidance, discernment, and peace to survive each day. I sought God and prayed hard all during my son’s school days. I was in a Moms in Prayer group where I learned how to pray and pray is what I did all through the years. My son graduated high school and those days are now gone. He has grown up and turned out to be a fine young man. However, his future is still somewhat uncertain and I still get up each morning and pray.
This situation created a pattern of seeking God first thing in the morning and it is vital to my soul. Without my morning time with God, my day isn’t the same and rarely goes well. Some days I have time to sit and read for a long time and some days are a few moments in a devotional. I give all that I can give in the morning and pray for all that burdens my heart each day. Sometimes things work out well and sometimes they are not so well, but I’m well because of time spent with God in prayer.
I started writing this devotion few years ago when our family had a moment of grieving together. We had to put our family dog of 12 years down. I had never heard my son groan and cry with such emotion. I can’t tell you how many times I prayed for my son to have the same life experiences as his peers. This may not make sense to you if you’ve not experienced having a child who has struggled in these areas. However, I’m a happy mom because my son knows how to love well and grieve well. What more could a mother ask…well maybe for him to take his requests to God each morning then wait expectantly like the verse says so I’ll keep praying for that each morning.
But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love. Psalm 5:11-12
I realize we are past the 15th anniversary of 9/11/2001 and publishing this post may seem late. However, I beleive the timing is perfect for someone and I’m praying for the person(s) this is meant to encourage. For me, 9/11 it’s a constant reminder that I need a deep relationship with God. Last year I went to New York for the first time in my life and when I returned, I started this post. However, it has been sitting as a draft ever since. I knew when the timing was right, I would share. Here’s my experience and I hope you will come along with me.
Saint Paul’s Chapel was the only building that didn’t sustain damage on September 11, 2001. I recall hearing about this at the time but there’s nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.
Prayers for those missing after the attacks.
Saint Paul’s Chapel
Inside Saint Paul’s Chapel
It was my first trip to New York and I was so happy to see the city with my precious step-daughter, Chelsea. She invited me to come along on a work trip so we took advantage of the opportunity and went early for the weekend to take in the sites and see a Broadway play.
The whole weekend was amazing! We started day one with a tour of New York City. It was a rainy and windy cold day. It was Fall which is something Texas doesn’t do well. Our tour consisted of bus and boat and it was fantastic! We saw many sites such as the Empire State Building, Flatiron Building, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial site and much more. Our tour guide, Bernice, was great! You could tell she loved her job and the city.
She shared wonderful details about all the sites and when she talked about 9/11, her story became personal. Seems like everyone has a 9/11 story if you were alive that day. However, her story really resonated with me and I want to share it.
Bernice had a dream the night before 9/11 of planes crashing into the World Trade Center buildings. She was scheduled to give a tour of the World Trade Center to a bus load of people at promptly 9:00 am on September 11, 2001. She called in to work and told them that she needed to cancel the tour and would not make it to work that day.
I don’t have to tell you what happened because you know the rest of the story of that horrible day. Bernice praised God for saving her life and others.
Bernice has had other dreams and learned to pay attention to them long ago. On another occasion she dreamed of leaving her apartment and being mugged and badly beaten. When she woke and left her apartment the next day, she was mugged and badly beaten. Bernice has learned something that some of us might want to think about. I believe she listens to God and this is how God speaks to her. He speaks to all of us and often times we are not aware or we choose to ignore.
God spoke to me loud and clear to me following that dreadful September 11th day. You see I had a relationship with God for eternity, but not a relationship for the here and now. The bible tells us that Jesus came they we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The Common English Bible translation says “…so they could live life to the fullest”. I knew he wanted me to find a place to worship and grow in the knowledge of who he was, is, and is to come. That day was a turning point in my life and I sought God with all my heart. Looking back, I’m grateful for taking the next step toward God and can see why he was preparing me for a better life…a life with Him at the center of everything.
Nothing can shake the foundation set in place by the One who delivered me from sin and death. I’ve been able to endure grief, sorrow, pain, and loss because God is my strength. I’ve also been able to experience joy, grace, peace, love, and life because God is my strength.
I believe God gave us a strong message by the standing and unaffected Saint Paul’s Chapel during the 9/11 attacks. There’s no explanation for why that building is still standing as it is literally across the street from where the Twin Towers stood. God purposely preserved this chapel and for me, it’s a message of hope and eternity. Don’t wait another second to follow after God and may you respond to the call he has on your life.
Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.
I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.
I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?
How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?
How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?
Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?
What happens if we are no longer compassionate?
Well the good news is this…
Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).
Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.
It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.
Compassion always leads to action.
God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).
In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:
Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.
You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.
When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).
Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.
What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.
In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, “who is my neighbor”. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?
Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?
God, who do you want me to love?
Those with a different lifestyle?
Different political views?
I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV
So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.
Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.
And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32
If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.
Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.
Compassion always leads to action.
Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.
Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”
We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?
I think they might say something like this to us…
Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!
Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!