Since this is an election year I'm sure you've heard your fair share of political soundbites. We need less government. We need more government programs. We don't need government at all. We need higher taxes. We need more tax breaks. We need to eliminate all taxes. We need more laws. We need fewer laws. We need better enforcement of laws. We were founded on Biblical priniciples. We need separation of church and state. Every politician has their own agenda and plan. Every political analyst has their opinion on those agendas and plans. There's political debates, articles, blogs, facebook updates and tweets. AHHHHHH!!! It's enough to make your head spin and your eyes pop out! There are times when I think of moving to a secluded island until this election is over and done. But then I'm reminded of what the Bible says.
Romans 13:1 tells us that we should support human government because it is ordained by God. We may not like a certain politician but we are called to obey and respect the God ordained offices of government. God is a God of order and it is His will for us to live in a world of order. Without laws and government there would be absolute chaos and no restraint against evil. Laws were created not to legislate morality but to legislate against immorality.
While we may not agree on what changes are needed for our government there is one thing that we ALL need that will bring the best change of all...Jesus. He is the only one that can truly bring lasting change. His Word is powerful and changes hearts. So during this crazy year full of political soundbites and promises of change let's focus on the source of real change. Let's spread His message of love and eternal life.
Our pastor recently preached a 2 part message on The Christian and the Government and I highly recommend it. Click here to listen to the messages in their entirety.
So you may or may not have known that yesterday March 14th (3/14) was Pi Day. You know that mathematical term Pi = 3.141592663 and on and on the number goes. Well last night at Awana we celebrated pi day with another knd of pie. We made whoopie pies. They're 2 small cakes with cream filling in the middle. Our whoopie pies were vanilla cake with chocolate & marshmallow fluff filling.
I had the privilege of leading counsel time for our Sparks & T&T boys & girls. We talked about the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10. This story has always interested me because I can relate to both of the sisters. I love just sitting at the feet of Jesus and soaking up His words like Mary was doing. I am also the oldest of 3 children. So I understand Martha and the responsibility that falls on the firstborn. Some is given to us and many times we take it a step further and add even more repsonibility on ourselves.
This is what Martha was doing when she invited Jesus and His disciples to her home for a meal. She was trying to make everything perfect. I think if I was hosting Jesus for a meal, I would probably be a bit anxious and frenzied as well. I would have a hard time deciding which dish to prepare so I might try to prepare 10 different ones. I would have given my entire household jobs to do. I can imagine that Martha came home to tell Mary that she had invited Jesus to dinner and began making lists of things that needed to be done.
Mary & Martha were both making preparations when Jesus arrived. Mary stopped what she was doing and sat down to listen to Jesus. She sat right at his feet so she wouldn't miss a single word that He was saying. Martha was busy bringing food to everyone and she was getting a little upset that she was doing all of the serving alone. So she uttered those words that we all say when we don't like our cirumstances "It's not fair". Martha said those words to Jesus hoping that he would see how hard she was working and tell Mary to get up and help her.
I've been a Martha in my adult life more times than I like to admit. God, it's not fair that they have more money. God it's not fair that they have a better family. God it's not fair that they get more attention & recognition. God it's not fair that they get to travel. Wow!! The list of complaints we can have when we compare ourselves to others.
I love Jesus' response to Martha, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing to be concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." Jesus wasn't telling Martha that there was anything wrong with serving and cooking. He was trying to explain that by comparing herself to Mary she became jealous and had a bad attitude. When you love someone you shouldn't be jealous of them or compare yourself to them. We should focus on what God has called us to do and not be so consumed with someone else's calling. I think he was also telling Martha that she did not need to spend all of her time serving everyone else. He wanted her to take time to sit and listen to Him as well. Martha was anxious and worried over a temporary thing while Mary was focused on something eternal...learning from Jesus.
That's the message I tried to share with the Awana kids last night. That no matter what we do everyday, we need to make sure that all of our activities at home, work, school, and church don't overcrowd our lives so much that we don't have time each day to sit at the feet of Jesus. So to help the kids I came up with this acronym for Whoopie Pie:
So I encourage you to make everyday a whoopie pie kind of day.
So last month I wrote about approaching the milestone of turning 40. Well I'm here to say that I not only survived but I enjoyed that day immensely. It was by far one of my best birthdays in a long time.
Over the years, I had really downplayed my birthday. When you have a house full of little kids and a hubby that's working so hard to support the family, then you just keep things simple. I was very happy to have a special dinner with the family and then a day out shopping by myself while hubby watched the kids. This year I was looking forward to my birthday falling on a 4-day weekend from school. I told the kids that I would be taking the day off from mom duty and they were gonna take care of me. Well thanks to the extremely mild winter we were having, my mom and aunt were able to come up from Georgia for the weekend.
My birthday started with hubby and the kids making breakfast and my aunt taking pictures. She took pictures of the kids cooking. She took pictures of me doing my devotions. She took pictures of us eating breakfast. All she said was that she would be taking pictures throughout the day to chronicle the events of my 40th birthday. And I would understand more later. I must say I was a little puzzled and and a bit excited at the same time.
We spent the afternoon at Hobby Lobby and the mall. I'm sure people thought we were crazy when we kept taking pictures of each other with different signs in Hobby Lobby. We were laughing so hard at some of the sayings. That evening Rich made my birhday dinner request....Manicotti!!! It's my favorite and we don't have it very often because it takes a while to make it. Then the highlight of the day happened.
My aunt gave me a gift bag with a large scrapbook in it. When I opened it there was a poem my aunt had written in the front. As I turned the first page, I realized it was a scrapbook about me and my life. There were pictures of me as a baby and a toddler. Pictures of me with my grandparents, who are no longer living. The next page was all of my school pictures from kindergarten through high school, then college. There were pictures of me over the years with siblings, cousins, aunts & uncles. Then it moved on to pictures of me & Rich. Then there was pages dedicated to each of my 4 kids. There were pictures from when I was a baby all the way through to my kids playing Upward this year. The last 2 pages were blank. That's when I realized why my aunt had spent the day taking pictures. They were the ones needed to complete the scrapbook.
I loved showing the pictures to Rich & the kids and sharing all the stories and memories that went with them. I was amazed at how all the memories of certain things came flooding back just by looking at a picture. I was so happy and felt so blessed that they had taken the time to create such an amazing gift.
As I look at the pages in that scrapbook, I'm reminded that it's the people in our lives that make the difference. It's the people we share our lives with that make life special. It's not the clothes we wear, the homes we live in or the cars we drive. It's not the trips we take or the events we attend. It's about the people. It's the physical family God gave us at birth and the spiritual family we join when we get saved. Jesus was like that. He focused on the people. I think that's why Jesus commands us to love others. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
So as I embark on this next chapter and journey towards the next milestone,I want to spend time loving people and showing them God's love. I want to remember to focus more on the people and less on the "stuff".
As Christians we know that God calls us to forgive. We can know verse after verse about the importance of forgiving our brother or even our enemy. But knowing and doing are two very different things. John 13:17 says "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them". Forgiveness takes action on our part and sometimes we have to forgive someone multiple times for a single offense until we've completely released it. James MacDonald defines forgiveness as "the decision to release a person from the obligation that resulted when they injured you".
Forgiveness is a decision. It's not based on our emotions or severity of the offense against us. It's a choice that we make because we have been forgiven. At times it's a very difficult choice. We may feel that if we forgive someone then we're letting them off the hook. However, forgiveness is not about the other person. It's about us. It's about our relationship with Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. When we grasp what Christ has forgiven us of then we can't help but forgive others.
James MacDonald compares forgiveness to a funeral. "When you attend a funeral, you grieve and then you leave. When it comes to forgiveness, grieving is the moment described by Jesus in Mark 11:25 when you are standing before God and certain painful situations or certain people's names and faces begin to fill your thoughts." When those situations are brought to mind, the truly forgiven cannot bear the turmoil or pain and must forgive.
Our small group has just begun a 6 week study by James MacDonald on the process of forgiveness and the detrimental effects of unforgiveness. "Unforgiveness is a punisher. But it doesn't punish the person who sinned; unforgiveness punishes the person who was sinned against." The challenge for this first week is to make a choice to forgive everyone who has ever done anything to hurt us. We do this by taking the time to compile two lists. List one is People I Need to Forgive and list two is People I Can't Forgive. This first step is just opening the door to choosing to saying "I will forgiv.
I challenge you to take some time this week and compile your own lists. Take that first step towards the freedom of true forgiveness.
Have you ever played that game where you talk about what you would do if you had a million dollars? Over the years my list of things has grown and changed to the point that a million dollars may not be enough. So then you play the "If I had 10 million dollars" game. I've planned vacations, construction projects, thought about what organizations I would donate to or which family members I'd help. I've built a ranch in Montana with cabins for all of my family members to stay in when they visit. I've bought homes for extended family. I've built my dream home and filled it with the best of everything. All of this has of course taken place in my mind....my imagination gets a little wild and crazy sometimes.
As I was thinking about that game recently, I realized that my million dollar list had changed. My eyes and heart have been opened to so many needs around me that vacations and new homes for me seem like such a waste of a million dollars. I am blessed to live in a great rental home and have vehicles that get me where I need to go. My children are clothed, have plenty to eat and clean water to drink. So if I had a million dollars, I would spend my time feeding the hungry here and in other countries. I would provide shoes and clothes for as many children as I could. I would dig wells to provide clean water to communities who need it. I would go around the world meeting basic human needs and sharing Jesus' message of salvation. So now I just need a million dollars to magically appear., rght
Actually I don't need to wait until I have a million dollars. I don't even have to wait until I have a $1000 or even $100. I can do all those things NOW! I can donate extra food items to the food pantry. I can give away clothes that my kids outgrow to a needy family. I can donate $1 for a person to have clean drinking water for a year. I can go on short-term missions trips with my church and share the message of Jesus. I can ask the Lord each day to put someone in my path that I can minister to in some way.
Think of something you can do today to show God's love in a tangible way. Now go do it.
I am a Christian, a wife, a mom, a VBS crafter, a coupon clipper, a thrift store shopper, a football fan, a cook, a student of the Bible and an avid reader.