“He’s my brother; she’s my sister”

I’ve just been going over the verses set for reading and meditation for the last few days. Upon reflection, I think it’s important to understand, that to help, to care and to carry our brothers and sisters; we must first ensure that we are continuously striving towards improving our own spiritual health – to be strong, in God’s love, through His grace.

Pause for a moment, and reflect on some of the verses from Hebrews 12:14-29 (NLT): “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless …

… you have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering. You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things. You have come to the spirits of the righteous ones in heaven who have now been made perfect. You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance …

Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.

Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.”

Sometimes, I feel, that we loose sight of the fantastic awesomeness of God – to think, that a day will come when all of creation will be shaken and removed. A thought, which is hard to comprehend – but that day will come!

The other verses worthy of reflection, come from the next Chapter of Hebrews (13:1-29, NLT): “Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.  Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,  “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”  So we can say with confidence,  “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them. … Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Now may the God of peace – who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood – may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.”

Did you see – that the strength required to carry our brothers and sisters comes from God’s grace – not from us?

Consequently, when you meditate on the above verses – we can hear the echo of God’s Word in Selwyn’s conclusion: “Yes, caring is carrying. Look around and you will see that some of your brothers and sisters are hurt and wounded. Remember, they are part of your family – the family of God. Your Father wants you to reach out to them with help. He provides you with special power for the task. … Caring is carrying – the brother or sister you are caring for is a burden God will help you to carry.”

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Happy Birthday for   ‘A light inside’  🙂

An epilogue

I liked the conclusion, that Selwyn provided (a comment, made by a person who had attended a counsellor training course): ” ‘Since I committed my life to helping others, all the doors in my personality have been unlocked.’ That’s how it is: the doors of the uncaring person all open inwards; but the door of the caring person open outwards.”

it’s important to realise that we cannot  –  follow this new commandment – (John 13:34): ”So now, I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.’ By using our own strength and ability; we must have the Holy Spirit living in us, to enable us, to love others in the same way God loves us. If we do not follow Jesus, it’s impossible to truly love (agape) others. Do you agree?

Caring is non-optional

Selwyn captures the theme for this issue ‘Purpose for LIving’, which we have been looking at for the last two months – with these words: ” … when we love God and commit ourselves to His direction, we don’t have the option of deciding whether or not to care for others. As followers of Jesus, we show our identity not by a membership card but by a lifestyle of caring, (our identity, is summarised by Jesus, in the following two verses from John’s Gospel), John 13:34-35 (NLT): ‘So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’

Consequently, that’s the question for all of us – does our lifestyle, prove to everyone, that we are one of His’ disciples?

What’s your answer?

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I’ve been ‘out of action’ for the last few days, mainly because of poor time management; and recently – a very bad toothache, which means a visit to a dentist. I can stand a lot of pain in many different situations – but I’m a total wimp when it comes to dentists. Some, out there – are no doubt experienced and accepting of the pain experienced while held ‘captive’ in a dentist’s chair – maybe; prayers for my acceptance of similar necessary pain, is in order.   🙂

A love covenant

I found it unusual that in all of Selwyn’s travels – he can tell us, of only one church, that he had visited where ‘a commitment is made by every member to place the interests of the other members before their own’.

Selwyn introduces today’s study with these words: “This is our last day to discuss the ingredients of a caring church: (5) A caring church is a church whose members are willing to lay down their lives for others.”

For today’s study, Selwyn has chosen, Matthew 20:20-28, for reading and meditation, the following key verses, sets the theme – Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT) : ” … Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

If God – whose example we follow (as described in Scripture) – gave up, His life to save the world; so too, we must also be prepared to give up our lives – if called by Him, to do so.  Would you?

Inventive love

I must admit, today’s study did not say much to me – if you received something special from reading it – please let me know – what it was.

The introduction, was fine:A caring church is a church with a system of loving support. In a caring church community, people are not left to suffer in silence. Problems are anticipated, strategies planned and lasting solutions developed. Love isn’t sentiment or feelings – it’s about giving real help to real people. …

Perhaps, the most telling aspect of a caring church is; if people who are suffering, stay within their church community because the support they are receiving – is effective – they feel loved by Jesus, and His followers.

Any comments on today’s study?

Sharing at a deep level

Selwyn looks at “another ingredient of a caring church: In a caring church people can share their deep feelings and hurts without fear of being rejected.”

‘Rejection’ can come in many forms – a common one, is for the confidence of a small group to be broken – meaning that what you may share, in confidence, may be shared by others present – with the wider church community through ‘gossip’.

Selwyn writes: ” … I (once) emphasised the need to share one’s deepest problems with a small group of committed believers – a reader, then shared with their group, a deep hurt experienced a few days earlier. It seems that this expression of feeling took the group by surprise. One of them said: “We are here to unravel the Bible’s problems, not your problems.” Someone else said; : “I’m surprised at you having such negative feelings. I always thought you were such a positive person.” Another said: ‘”You shouldn’t feel like that – it’s not a right reaction to difficulties.” 

I had to smile when I read today’s study. All to often, I’ve encounter the same type of reaction (as outline above) when sharing some of the difficult times I’ve gone through – with others. Let me be clear about one thing – all those who follow Jesus, will suffer.

Sadly, as Selwyn mentions, the ‘church’ is full of people who don’t know how to comfort others during times of spiritual trials or personal hurts.  I know many people who have had similar experiences: a mature, follower of Jesus, does not respond in such a negative way – yet, we need to forgive those who make uncaring, thoughtless comments.

I, myself, know people with serious problems that they have not shared – it is, as if, by sharing, they admit they are not perfect. Yet, that’s what we are – imperfect, stumbling – failing individuals – trying to live according to God’s will – but never reaching His standard. It’s by accepting our failings, that we learn to lean on God – for everything – to become like, little children – depending entirely on our Holy Father. We can depend entirely on God – because He loves us, with His entire being. Do you agree?

‘Model’ leadership

I think the verses set for reading and meditation provide a good summary of: ‘a caring church is a church whose leaders (elders) demonstrate care and concern for each other, thus setting a good example to their flock‘.

I’ve used the New Living Translation (NLT), to present, 1 Peter 5:1-11: “And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power to him forever! Amen.”

We can see from Peter’s words, that leaders should ‘lead by example’, they should be lights upon the hill showing by the way they live their lives, the fruits of having a relationship with God. These verses should provide us with a measure of comfort: we learn, that we should talk to God about our worries and concerns – because He cares for us – we can trust in His love, He will respond in a perfect way that results in our spiritual growth. Our faith will enable us to believe that – ‘after we have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen us, and he will place us on a firm foundation’.

We all know – that we will go through times of suffering – ‘our great enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.  By faith, we can stand firm against him – even if Satan finds a foothold in our defences, we know that if we call out to God we will be supported and strengthened.

If we do not call out to God for help, because we think we can handle our own spiritual problems (perhaps, a symptom of pride); our suffering may become intense, do you think that’s to be expected?