At the end of myself…at the feet of Jesus

Matthew 25: 40, And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


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You Will Not Go Down

“When Thou passest through the waters,”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And his promise is our hold;
For the Lord himself has said it,
He, the faithful God and true;
“When you come to the waters
You will not go down, but through.”

Seas of sorrow, Seas of trial,
Bitter anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain…
They will never overflow us
For we know His work is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.

Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Will not sink us, will not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise will sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose word is true!
We will not go down, or under,
For He says, “You will pass through.”

 

 


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Love God by Loving the Least of These

Matthew 25: 40, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Broken people are easy to ignore. The outcasts, the maimed, the poor, the unwanted, if we aren’t one of them, we don’t really understand them. If you’ve not been confined to a wheelchair, if you don’t know someone who is, can you really relate to what someone who is faces on a day-to-day basis? If you’ve not been in poverty, it’s hard to know just how gut-wrenching the daily life of an impoverished family is. It’s so easy to ignore families who aren’t just like ours. The mother who dresses poorly, eyes always downcast, acting as if she is afraid someone will speak to her–she probably is afraid. Do you love her enough to find out? If we love God, we have to love His people, and not just our own family and friends, not just those we love to catch up with from time to time but the broken ones, the impoverished ones, the ones maimed and damaged by life and by others. Even those caught up in the logical consequences of their own poor decision-making who now have repented and want to live for Christ–to fully live for Him–how often we turn such a one away. We’ll put the elderly on our prayer list. We’ll call the sick (maybe). We’ll take a meal if someone has a new baby or a death in the family. But what of those who are continuously suffering, what of them? What do we do for the abused? For the lonely older lady who did all she could when she could but now has no one, have we forgotten her? What about the one suffering through an unwanted divorce? What about those whose lives have been destroyed by economic disasters? Oh, we’ll organize drives and go paint houses for the elderly, we’ll get the guys together to fix a single Mom’s car or we’ll gather and fill shoe boxes at Christmas for the poor children across the sea so they know that somebody cares. We do all of those things and we feel really good about ourselves when we do. But, once the project is over it’s back to business as normal and those poor folks get ignored for the rest of the year. We’ll speak to them in church (usually in a hurry so we don’t feel guilty about ignoring them while we’re also making sure there’s no time to really connect with them or for them to put any demands on us–we’re just so busy, you know?). If we get around to it (or if we’re really pressed to) we’ll try to raise some money to help them take care of their needs, we’ll say a quick prayer for them (quickly before we forget we promised), we’ll even pick them up for church if no one else will. That’s usually as far as it goes. We see them as a project to do rather than people to love.

Most Christians act like they think that abuse, poverty, unending health challenges are diseases that if we get too close we might catch. We don’t want to get involved, we don’t want demands made on us. We certainly don’t want our own comfort zone somehow compromised by having to think about what someone else is dealing with daily. You’d think we believe in karma rather than the grace of God (maybe they did something to somehow deserve this, brought it on themselves….). Yeah. And maybe it’s just what God has for them and maybe you are the one He’s chosen to put in their path to do something about it.

Funny but I can’t see Jesus hiding from such things, can you? He was always right there, right in the midst of those who were wounded, hurting, maimed and poor. Healing the broken, serving the outcasts, loving the unlovable. Doing His Father’s will. We read the stories and we think how great He was for doing such things yet, when we get the chance to do the same, we balk and run the other way.

It’s time for a change. We need to ‘fess up that we’ve been wrong. We need to get into the midst of the pain, come along side the abused, the sick, the broken, the lonely and the poor and help them. Ask them how they are and really mean it. Hear their stories. Help them. Serve them. Day in, day out, until we’ve actually made a difference in their lives. Until their pain is ours and our joy is theirs. It’s time to do so because Jesus has told us to do so. He’s told us to care. So let’s get on our knees and ask Him to show us those He has for us to serve and then, let’s get busy serving.

Are you ready?


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The Unbiblical (and Common!) Way to Handle Reports of Abuse in the Church

Originally posted on The Reformed Reader:

http://ssofdv.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/a-cry-for-justice-book.jpg?w=112&h=169 In their helpful book on abuse in the church, Jeff Crippen and Anna Wood give an outline of what typically (and sadly!) happens when a victim goes to her pastor for help.  In other words, the following is an outline of how abuse is sometimes swept under the rug in Christian churches.  Why am I posting this?  Basically, I want Christians (especially elders and pastors) to be aware that abuse can and does hide in churches.  I also want to point out this helpful resource for those needing some guidance on the topic of abuse in the church.  (Note: since victims of abuse are often women, the authors use a woman in this example, but they make it clear elsewhere that sometimes men are the victims as well).  I’ve edited a bit for the purpose of this blog:

1) Victim reports abuse to her pastor.
2) Pastor does not believe…

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Church, Will You Not Care?

There are many like me, women whose men have, through their abuse, torn the very fabric of their lives to shreds. There’s no organic wholeness to our lives, just a grasping terror due to trying desperately to hold on. There’s no plan for the future, no stability to plan one, just a prayer to make it through this one minute. Over and over again, this one minute lived takes us places we’re both afraid to face and hungry to embrace. Maybe it will bring the change, the hopeful future, we long for. More likely, it will bring more of the same deadness, full of fear and confusion, that has haunted our lives for years.

This is the life of an abused woman. As fear grows, hope diminishes until she is afraid to hope. Too much disappointment is a destroyer, a killer of dreams. As the blows from her husband intensify, be they verbal or physical, she retreats further inside herself, afraid even to look up lest she make him angry. It’s no different if the abused wife is a Christian. The life she lives, she lives alone. Afraid both of the consequences she’ll face at home for reaching out to others and of others reactions should they find out the secrets of her life, she hunkers down and cries out at the foot of the cross.

Does God see her? Does He care for her pain, for the pain of her children? Does He want her to stay? Will He enable her to leave? How can she provide for them? How can she protect her babies? How can she make it through another minute, let alone another day? Thoughts and prayers, hope and fears, bump against one another during the crawling fearful minutes of her day. In the late night hours they mix and mingle, twisting crazily into one another, giving her yet another night of fitful sleep and terror-filled dreams.

You wouldn’t know by the responses of the church that God cares. They are more willing to ignore such a woman than to get involved. Time and time again, an abused woman’s story is told; time and again, her story is ignored or disbelieved by those who claim the name of Christ. Refusal to listen, to help, to get involved crosses all denominational lines. If advice is given, it’s usually bad. “Go back home, serve him, keep praying and know that you are suffering for Christ” seems to be the most widely used piece of junk advice Christians have to offer. Junk because in that one sentence, they are both linking Christ to her abuse and excusing themselves from having to extend any effort to help her.

But her pain remains. The tears keep on falling. And, for now as in the past, most churches keeps right on failing abused women and their children.

Church, do you see our tears? Do you not care for our wounded hearts? We are mourning, will you not embrace us? Will you not care? Do you not remember that the same God who told you to rejoice with those who rejoice also said to weep with those who weep? We are weeping, we wives of men who abuse and misuse us, will you not join us? Will you not weep with us? Will you not weep for our children? Will you not be Jesus’s hands to us, gently wiping away our tears? We are your daughters, your sisters, your friends. One in four women, women you know, are weeping, reeling from the pain caused by their man. Will you not help us?


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God Hates Divorce: Slogan or Scripture?

Originally posted on The Reformed Reader:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41rOl3VlaiL.jpg Several weeks ago, I noted how some common translations of Malachi 2:16 are unhelpful because they make the text say that God hates divorce (e.g. NKJV, KJV, NIV).  However, the Malachi 2:16 doesn’t say that; it says, ‘For the man who hates and divorces,’ says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘covers his garment with violence….’ (ESV; see also HCSB).  Based on this discussion, I appreciate Barbara Roberts’ words in Not Under Bondage, a thorough biblical study of divorce, abandonment, abuse, and remarriage.  Here’s how she says it:

“The words ‘I hate divorce, says the Lord God of Israel’’’ which occur in many translations of Malachi 2:16 have frequently been paraphrased as the slogan ‘God hates divorce.’  At face value this slogan appears to condemn all divorce and all acts of divorcing, with no thought for who is the innocent, or less guilty, party.  Understood like this, it…

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How Christians Can Help Single Moms: Get to Know Her

1 Corinthians 13: 2, If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love—I am nothing. 

Remember the single mom in your congregation? You’ve seen her arriving weary but determined, struggling to keep her little ones quiet, trying to guide her teens and be a good example to all her children. She does this alone. Perhaps she is embraced by your congregation, perhaps she is ignored due to the circumstances of her singleness. Put yourself in her place. If you were a single mom, would you feel loved and cared for by God’s own or would you feel ignored and pushed aside? How would that affect your view of God if you were a young Christian? What if you’d not yet submitted to Christ–how would that affect you?

It’s not enough for us to have correct doctrine. While the need to understand the Bible as God meant it to be understood cannot be overstated, the truth is that we must then live out what we’ve learned or we’ve failed in following Christ. William Nicholson, a minister from the 1800’s said, “It is not sufficient to be sound in the faith—we must also abound in love. A man may have an orthodox creed—while his heart is cold and dead. Where religion is genuine, love will be active.” 

Ask yourself, is love active in your church? In your own life? Are you doing all that you can to show love to those who need it most? How can you do better? Then ask yourself this: If you were a single mom, what would your needs be? Some of your answer would depend upon your socio-economic level. A career oriented single mom who makes enough to provide for herself and her children will likely have different  needs than an inner-city single mom or a single mom who got pregnant as a teenager. Your job as her sister or brother is to get to know her. Gaining an understanding her needs will come.

Some of the needs of single moms are pretty much the same across the board: Someone to care, to listen, to be involved in her children’s lives. The most important thing you need to know is this: Do you know for certain that she knows Christ? Do her children? That is their most important, most pressing, need. Then ask yourself: If you were a single mother, how would you feel bearing your burdens alone? How would you feel sitting by yourself in church? Going home to an empty house? Making sometimes overwhelming decisions that will affect your children all by yourself? What matters might be pressing in on you, threatening to drown you?

In many ways, single moms are just like other moms. They’re real flesh and blood women. They have hopes and dreams, thoughts and feelings, needs and wishes. They get tired. They want what is best for their children. They dream of a better tomorrow. Often their days and nights are lonely and exhausting, their needs overwhelming, their cares daunting. You can come alongside of them and encourage them. Be Christ’s hands and feet to them.

Whatever her circumstances, however she came to be a single mom, be it abandonment or abuse, widowhood or as an unwed teen, don’t let the circumstances of her life cause you to sit back in judgement. She needs you to see past her circumstances to the real woman, the real sister in Christ. The circumstances of her singleness oughtn’t define her but she may feel as if they do. Some might treat her as if they define her. That isn’t right. Even if she sinned in some way and that led to her being a mother alone, if she’s here before you as your sister in Christ, that’s really all you need to know. Help her. Be a friend. Don’t let her circumstances, whatever they may be, affect your desire to serve God through serving her and her children. Don’t let her circumstances affect the way you see her children or the way you react to or interact with them. They need to know that someone cares for them. They need to see Christ’s love reflected in your words and actions. She and her children need the love of Christ. They need a burden-bearer.

Go over to her after church one Sunday and invite her and her children home for lunch or see if they can come for supper one night. I remember Mama telling me that no one but her own family and one other single Mom ever invited us to their homes. When couples got together, nobody knew what to do with a single Mom and her child. So they did nothing. Mama was lonely and her loneliness drove her towards depression. Sometimes she just wanted to feel included, to have someone to laugh with or confide in, someone who cared enough to find out how she was doing. She shouldn’t have had to bear all of her burdens alone. No one should. If you have the opportunity to serve a Mom who is bearing her burdens alone, do so. Include her and her children in some gatherings and try to get others interested in doing so also.

Beyond that, as you get to know her better, see where and how the church can help her. It is hard for most anyone to flat-out say “I have this need”. She may not want to tell you so you might have to observe her circumstances. Is her car reliable? Does she even have a car and, if not, how does she get around? Is dad fully in, partly in or completely out of the picture? Is she being threatened by a disgruntled ex-husband? Was she abused? Were the children? Is she able to provide for her children when birthdays or Christmas rolls around? Are there any pressing medical or dental needs? Does she need someone to talk to (a friend, a minister, a counselor, a lawyer)? Do her girls need help with anything? Do her boys need a man to talk to, do guy things with or to guide him? Go to her, get to know her, invite her into your life and ask to come into hers. Find out what’s on her heart. Ask about her needs and really listen to her reply. You might not be able to do everything, maybe not even much, but showing concern is a great place to start. Rally the troops, what you cannot do perhaps someone else can. Help her to find outside sources of help as appropriate. Just remember to do what you can. Be a friend. Lastly, get her involved in something. If she has gifts, abilities, encourage her to use them to bless others. Accepting help is a bit easier to swallow if you are also giving help to others.

Just remember, as Christians we are to do all that we do for Christ. So let’s get busy doing.

Soli Deo gloria!


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The Church and Single Moms

I was raised by a single Mom. Not single by choice but rather by necessity due to my Dad’s abuse, Mama struggled alone to be our provider and to fill in for the Dad who was incapable of loving either of us. It was hard. Her own health wasn’t good, yet no matter how poorly she felt, she worked on for bills had to be paid. My health wasn’t good, either, and I spent my childhood in and out of hospitals. For many years, we practically lived in doctor’s offices. My doctors gave up on my living long enough to make it out of childhood. I don’t think Mama ever did. Fortunately, the doctors were wrong. I survived. Through it all Mama tried. She supported us for many years through her sewing. A gifted seamstress who could make anything from wedding gowns to men’s suits, Mama was bent over her sewing machine from sunup until long after I was in bed. Often she didn’t stop until after midnight. The next morning, she was up and going again.

I am writing this because my mother was a single Mom and because, while the church sometimes stepped up and did all that they could do, they often didn’t. I’m grateful for all that those who loved God and loved us did for us. For their prayers, their kindness, their love. I’m especially grateful that they stepped up and helped her escape her abusive marriage. But we were still often alone. My mother still had no one to turn to for counsel most of the time. No one to help her navigate the rough waters threatening to overwhelm us both. She was still lonely. She was still alone. Because she was alone, her fears often overwhelmed her and then poured out on me.

I often write for abused women since my mother knew abuse and since it’s reared its ugly head in my own family too. Some of the issues that abused women face and those faced by single Moms overlap. Some of the suggestions I will be putting forth over the next several days could be effectively applied to abused women/mothers or married-wives-single-Moms (it is just what it sounds like, a married wife whose husband either refused to or is unable to step up to the plate as Dad).

I’ve never been a single Mom myself but as the daughter of a single Mom, I do have a birds-eye view of single Mom life. I know the pain Mama felt at being the odd-woman-out. In a world of couples, she was alone. Consequently, we were rarely invited out. Couples simply didn’t know what to do with us. It’s a complaint I’ve heard from other single Moms. The only person, outside of family, who ever invited us anywhere was the one other single Mom in our church. She herself knew the trials my mother was going through since she herself was going through them also. For many years, they watched each others back and shored each other up. It was nice having someone who understood, who didn’t stumble over asking me where my Daddy was or worry because there was no man for Mama to round out the seating arrangements at suppertime. In a world of couples, they were two lonely women doing the best that they could.

Loneliness is one of the main problems facing single Moms. Along with the myriad other problems such as exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed, coping with depression, fear, confusion, wondering if they are messing up, being sure they are messing up, desperation and, quite often, poverty. The problems meant for two must be solved by one. And it’s hard.

The main thing that single Moms need from the church is for truth to be preached, unwatered down and non-sugar coated, and then lived out. Through truth proclaimed and lived, the Moms will get the spiritual succor they need to grow, to know the Lord and to depend on Him and they’ll also get the support from fellow Christians that they need. Truth lived out can’t help but help those who need it most. Single Moms definitely fall within that group.

Over the next few days, I’ll be writing more about the church and single Moms. Once truth is lived out, sometimes ideas are needed as to how it might best be applied. That’s what we’ll tackle next.

 

Soli Deo gloria!

 

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