Tag Archives: witnessing

I Samuel 20; Goodbyes

We knew our mom was dying. She’d been diagnosed with cancer 18 months earlier, and that awful disease had done its worse. I’d spent the weekend at Mom and Dad’s, and hadn’t wanted to leave Mom’s side. We’d finally gotten a hospital bed, and set it up in the living room so she could be close to us all.

I sat next to her and held her tiny hand. She told me she wanted to die, she was so tired of being sick. She wanted to go home. I wanted her to stay.

I lived and worked about 60 miles from my parents’ home. So that Sunday evening I packed up and got ready to leave. I stopped at Mom’s bed, and put my cheek next to her’s, and whispered,”Gotta go. See you next weekend.”

She hesitated as though there was something she wanted to say. Then, “Ok. Be careful.”

I stood up fighting tears and said, “Love you” as cheerfully as I could manage. Then I walked away, not knowing if I’d ever see her again in this lifetime.

I drove down the road a short way, pulled into an empty parking lot, and cried and cried. I loved her so much.

She died two days later.

You hear people say, “I hate goodbyes” all the time. I’ve never heard anyone say they love them! Especially if the one you are leaving is someone you love deeply, and someone you know you may never see again.

Like David and Jonathan’s goodbye here in I Samuel. I imagine Jonathan’s heart was heavy as he picked up his bow and arrow and headed to the field that morning. I imagine he fought tears so as not to show the boy with him his sorrow. I can almost feel the burning lump in his throat as he shot that arrow, the signal to David that Saul wanted him dead. And I bet he knew he had to get that boy out of there before the dam broke.

At that moment, Jonathan disregarded any fear of danger at being seen with David. He had to have one last moment with his best friend, no matter the cost. And I imagine that as the two men hugged each other tightly, their tears flowed from their deepest pain.

As I write this, thinking about my last moments with my mom, and Jonathan and David’s goodbye, I am weeping. Twenty-one years have passed since Mom went to live with Jesus. But remembering that goodbye still touches the sorrow as though it was yesterday. I can hardly wait to see her again!

So I’m sitting here thinking about goodbyes and wondering what God would say to me about that today. Then I remembered something David said in verse 3:

…Yet as surely as the Lord lives and as you live, there is only a step between me and death.

The same can be said of all of us.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my sweet nephew that Sunday afternoon he lost control of his truck and slammed into a tree. He was gone in an instant, without saying goodbye even to his parents and sister. Without giving them the opportunity to say goodbye to him, either.

One step.

Now I’m certainly not advocating tearful goodbyes every time someone runs to the corner store for milk. But maybe God is prompting us to consider if there is someone in our lives with whom we have things yet unsaid. Anger or jealousy we need to confess, forgiveness we need to seek, Jesus we need to share.

Maybe God is bringing to mind someone you’ve stopped talking to for reasons you don’t even remember, or reasons so trivial in the light of eternity.

The truth is we are all one step away from death. Is there someone on your heart? Ask God what He wants you to do about that. Then do it.

You never get a second chance at a last goodbye.

I Samuel 7-10; Changed and Busy

Often when I read Scripture, God impresses on me the importance of servanthood. We, as God’s people, are not just encouraged to be involved in the work of the church. We see example after example of people who hear God say, “Go,” and they go. People who hear God say, “Do,” and they do.

Saul had been anointed by God and Samuel to be Israel’s first human king. God changed Saul that day, and he prophesied, joining in the celebration to a point where people recognized the difference God had made in Saul.

Then Samuel told Saul, “…do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.” (10:7b)

Have you allowed God to change you? Have you repented of sin, accepted Jesus as your Savior, and gone from sinner to saint by His precious blood? If you have, God will nudge you toward service. He’ll place in your heart a friend who needs to hear the Gospel. He’ll give you a desire to volunteer at church, to befriend a needy person, to make a phone call to reconnect with someone who has gone astray.

What a privilege we have to serve the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. What an honor to be God’s servant, to be His arms, legs, and voice to people who need Him.

When God plants a seed of service in your mind, don’t ignore it or talk yourself out of it. Don’t just think about getting involved. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it! Because God is with you.

Be blessed, and be a blessing to someone today. In Jesus’ name, and for His sake. Good things will happen when you and God get out there and get to work.

Joshua 11-17; Still Ticking

I retired from public education in 2011. I’d spent 37 years working with kids, parents, and fellow teachers. And I loved it. But during Christmas break in 2010, I knew it was time for me to go. I was tired.

Much has happened in the six years I’ve been retired. And I haven’t regretted my decision to move on from teaching. I will say, though, that this chapter in my life has its own challenges.

Caleb was in his 80’s when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Now, at 85, he was ready to tackle his own challenge, and take the land God had given him. It meant war, and hardship. But he said he felt as strong at 85 as he did at 40. I’m not close to 85, but I don’t feel as strong as I felt at 40.  I wonder what he ate for breakfast.

I’m reminded that obeying God, and serving Him does not have an age limit. I have a dear friend who’s mother has had several hospital stays the past few months as doctors try to get a sore on her foot to heal. She’s been in a lot of pain.

But that hasn’t stopped her from sharing Jesus. She talks about her Savior to everyone who comes into her room. She hands out business cards with our church’s address and phone number, and invites them to join us. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, volunteers, janitors, have all received a special invitation from this dear woman. They all know and love Ms Madelyn.

Ms Madelyn’s ministry has changed over the years. She can’t teach Sunday School or work in the nursery or sing in the choir. But even in the midst of her pain, she’s obeying Jesus’ Great Commission. She is still involved in ministry.

Ministry changes with age, as does simple tasks we take for granted. My back isn’t as strong as it used to be, my knee gives me problems from time to time, I don’t have the stamina I once had, and my hands are showing signs of arthritis. But my heart is still ticking, and I have a job to do.

At prayer meeting last Wednesday, we prayed for an especially long list of people with physical needs. Cancer, heart problems, organ failure, the health of our elderly population is getting more precarious all the time. Our pastor told us he’d read that someone once said the aging process is a gift from God, intended to wean us away from this life, and get us looking forward to the next.

It’s kind of like the timing of my decision to retire from teaching. People kept tell me I’d know when it was time for me to retire. I remember saying, “Then I’ll never retire, because I love my job.” And I did. For 36 1/2 years I loved it. But during that particular Christmas break, I realized I was worn out physically, mentally, and emotionally. I didn’t have the same enthusiasm I had when I was first out of college. I didn’t wake up each day eager to get to school to be with my kids. Even my colleagues started getting on my nerves.

I think what the pastor shared about aging being a gift from God, is true. I know the older I get, the more I am aware that this body is wearing out, and the more I think about living in heaven. I just never considered these aches and pains gifts from God, a way a loving God helps us let go of this life, and grasp His hand to lead us into eternity.

So what I take from these chapters today is to be faithful with the abilities God has given me today, in 2017. I may not be able to do the things I once did. But I can do the things God asks me to at this stage of life. If God can help Caleb conquer nations at 85, I’m pretty sure He is going to help me with the battles He wants me to win today, too.

You’re never too old to tell someone about Jesus. Not while your heart is still ticking.

 

Numbers 17-18; Budding, Blossoming, and Bountiful

Priests were highly regarded men, respected, obeyed. It’s no wonder that men from other tribes wanted to enjoy the same honor. But God made it plain that Aaron was His chosen, and only Levites were to attend to priestly duties. The staff that represented Aaron not only budded, it blossomed, and produced fruit over night.

The other staves? Nothing.

This side of the cross, as God’s kingdom of priests, we can learn from Aaron’s staff. As believers, we are chosen by God to grow in grace and knowledge, to go and make disciples, to stand in the gap between heaven and hell. We also can delight in God’s Presence, His love, His forgiveness, and protection. Buds and blossoms and bounty.

But chapter 18 reminds us of the great responsibility that goes along with all that. God told Aaron that he and his sons, “bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary…

Verse 5 says: You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.

The commentaries I read seemed to agree these verses warn me that, although being God’s child through the blood of His Son is a precious gift, there are serious consequences if I don’t use it, if I hoard it or abuse it.

I must bear fruit. If I don’t, God’s wrath will be my fault. If my neighbor goes to hell because I didn’t reach out to him to introduce him to the Savior, his blood is on my hands.

My pastor is going through I Thessalonians verse by verse with us, and yesterday we got to 5:12-15. These verses talk to us about how we are to regard those who are over us in the Lord. In other words, our pastors.

He shared the grave responsibility he has as our under-shepherd, and the fact that he will stand before God some day and account for his care of us who worship with him in our church body. He asked us to pray for him, for his faithfulness to God’s Word, and his purity, that God would keep him grounded in the Truth of Scripture, and victorious over sin in his own life.

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter, and would ask the same of you. Please pray for me as I take on the responsibility of being God’s voice to the dear women who trust me to speak the Truth. And pray that Satan will be defeated in my life.

My pastor also pointed out these verses address “those who work hard AMONG you.” Isn’t that all of us who name the name of Jesus? We need to be in prayer for our elders, deacons, youth leaders, worship leaders. We need to be in prayer for each other in our workplaces and neighborhoods as we represent Jesus to a lost world. These verses tell us to live in peace with each other, to encourage each other in the work we have to do, to be patient and kind with everyone, and always want what is best for everyone.

We are all in this together. We all have jobs to do so blossoms will grow and fruit is produced. I pray that God will find all of us faithful, and that our fruit will be bountiful for Jesus’ sake.

Numbers 15-16; Into The Midst

Many of the Israelites don’t seem to be very nice people. It didn’t take much for them to band together against Moses and Aaron in rebellion. Some of them even convinced themselves that the whole lot of them were holy, so who did Moses think he was, anyway? (This was after God pronounced judgment on them for their sin of disbelief. Not sure how holy they thought they were then.)

Even after God opened up the earth and swallowed the ring leaders, then sent fire to consume 250 rebels who were offering incense and dishonoring the priesthood, some of the Jews continued their vendetta against Moses and Aaron. I can’t believe their nerve.

THE NEXT DAY the whole Israelite community accused Moses and Aaron of killing the Lord’s people! Not sure how they thought Moses arranged an earthquake and a fireball from heaven without 2017 technology. But these people were actually saying Moses and Aaron were guilty of murder.

Once again, when faced with unfair treatment, Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. They went to God. They didn’t even try to defend themselves against the accusations.

God said, No worries. I’ll take care of these troublemakers. I’ll send a plague and kill them all!

What did Moses and Aaron do in response? They didn’t high five each other and stand back and watch their enemies suffer for being mean to them. They hurried to make atonement for the people.

They wanted God to forgive them! In fact, Aaron ran INTO THE MIDST of his accusers and stood in the gap between the living and the dead.

He saved their lives!

God is calling us to do the same. You might be mistreated for being a Christian. People around you might be talking about you, spreading rumors, accusing you. Your coworkers might be unfair. Some people in our world fear for their lives just because they follow Jesus.

How are we to respond? By standing in the gap. We have the Truth, the only means of salvation. We stand between someone’s eternal life and eternal death. Sure, they might want to be our enemy. But God loves them. And He just might want us to get in there and tell them that, to introduce them to the Savior.

Dear God, send me into the midst of those who would mistreat me. And may You find me faithfully standing in the gap, sharing your Gospel, leading people to the only One who can save, regardless of what they do to me. 

Numbers 13-14; Turn Down The Volume

When I was a middle school teacher I found that, when the kids in my classroom started to get noisy, the louder I spoke, the louder they got. If I tried to teach over their chatter, the noise level rose (and so did my frustration level).

It’s like that with arguments, isn’t it? Voice level rises, and anger escalates.

Ten spies came back from checking out the Promised Land, and threw fear into the people. I can almost see the Jews getting caught up in the frenzy. So rather than trying to out-shout them, Moses and Aaron fell to the ground, face down in front of the people gathered there. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes, a sign of distress and grief.

That got the people’s attention.

Several of my closest friends at the middle school and I had our breaks scheduled at the same time. Usually, unless there were papers to grade, lessons to tweak, or parents to talk to, we would meet in the teacher’s lounge for a cup of coffee and a few laughs. Most of the time five or six of us would sit around the table and talk about recipes, husbands, and TV shows, for twenty minutes. It was a much needed break from our day.

Two of the women were friends in school and out. They socialized together with their husbands, and enjoyed a special friendship. Most of the time, they would join the rest of us. But occasionally, they would sit together on the couch, heads together, and whisper about something they didn’t want the rest of us to hear.

What do you do when someone whispers? Do your ears perk up, your senses heighten? Well, mine did. I could be in the middle of a conversation with another teacher at the table, but as soon as my friends on the couch began to whisper, I found myself trying to listen to them, too.

I couldn’t help myself. The whispering got my attention, even if I really didn’t care what they are saying.

I got to thinking about how I share Christ with others. Do I stand on a street corner and shout “Repent! The end is near!”? Do I take my Bible and hit them over the head with it? Do I talk about Jesus, or do I live His love? Do I listen to my friend, instead of rushing in with answers? Do I argue? Debate? Lecture?

Moses and Aaron fell on their faces, rather than trying to out-shout the crowd. I think I can learn a lesson from this. Oh, if you read on you’ll find out that some of the people didn’t heed what Moses had to say. They ended up facing God’s judgment in spite of his warning.

But at least Moses got their attention, and was faithful to say what God wanted him to say. I want that to be true about me, too.

So, maybe I should learn to turn down the volume. Someone said, “if you want people to hear you… whisper.” I want my life to whisper, “Jesus.”

I’m thinking that, if I want someone to hear my testimony, I should get together with them in a quiet place. I should demonstrate my love for God by quietly serving, by reaching out to them in friendship.

Then, I want to be ready to give an answer for the hope I have in my Savior. I just need to get their attention first so that they’ll ask me to.

 

 

 

Leviticus 1; Smelling Like Jesus

There is a restaurant on this island that serves the best steaks. It’s not a fancy restaurant. It looks like an old barn. The interior is rustic, the tables worn. But, oh that food!

This restaurant happens to be on the only road going north/south on the island. So any time I want to go anywhere, I pass Bennie’s Red Barn.

When I read, “…an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord,” I get it. I’ve been known to slow down and roll down my window when I pass Bennie’s just to get a whiff of that meat on the grill. That is a pleasing aroma to me.

The Old Testament sacrifices hold so many precious reminders of Jesus, the fire of God’s holiness, the Blood, the Sacrifice of the Spotless Lamb. Jesus’ work on the cross was and is a pleasing aroma to the Father.

Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 2:15:

For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

I’m wondering if that’s true of me. Am I the pleasing aroma to God that Jesus is?

I have a friend whose husband absolutely demands that she never, ever eat garlic. I’ve never met anyone who can eat a bite of food with garlic in it, then reek of garlic afterward like she can. Not just on her breath. It pours out her pores like a garlic diffuser.

That has me thinking this morning. Is what I am ingesting coming out as a pleasing aroma to God, or not so much? Do I spend time with Him, read and think about His Word, communicate with Him, so that I give God the same pleasure His Son does? Does God want to roll down the windows of heaven to get that whiff of me? Or do the windows go up because I smell like the world?

I want to be a pleasing aroma to God. And I want to be a pleasing aroma to people around me, too. Because I want to spend so much time with my Savior, that they’ll be drawn to to the scent of Him pouring out of me.

I want to smell like Jesus.