Friday, June 27, 2014

Fascinated with Fame

This entry is by guest writer, Debbie Clem.  Debbie is a Montessori teacher in North Charleston, SC.  She attends Hope Church in Hanahan, where her husband is the pastor.

We all love to read or hear about the lives of celebrities: Hollywood movie stars, musicians, sports stars, and even the British Royals. For most of us, these celebrities live a life vastly different from our own. They live in mansions, drive expensive cars (when they are not being chauffeured in their private limo), fly across the country or continent for dinner, and can pretty much buy anything they want.  Many of us buy magazines and tabloids that boast tantalizing headlines about the rich, famous, and infamous. We google information about them and their families. We love to share information about them with others. Most of us don’t know any celebrities personally, and they have never personally done anything for us. Yet, we eagerly seek out and share every tid bit of information about them we can.

Well, how does this headline grab us?

“Jesus Christ gives up power, position, and prestige to willingly die by crucifixion to save mankind from sin."

The Creator of the Universe, the Savior of all mankind, who is all-powerful, lays down His life as a sacrifice for us so that we can enjoy eternal life with God. Why then do we not have a greater desire to learn as much as we can about Him than the celebrities who have no personal connection to us?

Psalm 139:13-16 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Jesus knows us intimately—better than any human on Earth—and knew us even before we were born. This supernatural intimacy didn’t cease with that first breath at birth; the Lord loves us for eternity. God is all about relationships and He desires nothing more than to spend time with us, His most precious creation. God loves us so much that He created mankind only after the Earth was made ready for us. James 1:18 says “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth; that we might be a kind of first fruits of all He created”. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Jesus only wants what’s best for us. He wants nothing more than to bless us. If He knew us before we were conceived then it seems reasonable that we should want to seek a relationship with Him—go to great lengths to learn about Him—to want to be like Him. Still, many of us continue to enjoy the celebrity lifestyle vicariously through tabloids and TV. Why aren’t we spending our time and resources getting to know Him who holds our very lives in the palm of His hand?

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

So with whom does your fascination lie? Will you spend your time, energy, and resources seeking information about someone who neither knows nor cares about you; or will you eagerly seek after the One who knew and loved you before you were born and sacrificed His own life so that you may enjoy life with Him in heaven for eternity?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Friday, June 20, 2014

An Encouragement to my Christian Brothers

            Have Christian men become afraid to pray?  Has it been deemed merely a pastoral responsibility?  During a recent mission trip, I was astonished by the refusal of adult men to pray over the locals we were ministering to, and even over meals.  When translators asked for volunteers to pray with the families we met, the great majority of men never stepped up.  Even when asked directly - “Would one of the men like to pray this time?” – the response was a shuffle of feet and blank stares.  Christian men, who had led youth to a third world country as their chaperone or father, were quick to paint houses but hesitant to speak with our God.  This is both tragic and terrifying.

            I see godly men around me, and abroad, who are eager to communicate with our heavenly Father.  They are not ashamed to lift up praises and requests.  In the preschool where I work, even the 2 year old children became enthusiastic volunteers to pray before snack and lunch.  So sweet!  However, the trend I saw on that mission trip spurred me on to reflection.  This past year I have witnessed women gathering together to pray intentionally over children, missionaries, and churches.  I have not seen this same dependence on God from men.  My viewpoint is limited, of course, and prayer is not meant to be a public spectacle.  I am also not speaking from any level of superiority or expertise (quite the opposite).  Still, I would like to encourage my brothers in Christ because I do not think these are merely isolated events.  May we cling to the truth of these reminders, and respond in boldness.

Our God is Personal
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

            God is not an impersonal force who is indifferent to our thoughts, concerns, joys and desires.  For those who surrender their lives in faith to Christ, God is a heavenly Father.  Prayer with him is a privilege; the God of the universe wants to hear from us as his children!  He is all-knowing, and yet he wants us to be joined with him in this intimate way.  For our relationship with God to be nurtured, communication is key – we see this in our earthly relationships as well.  If you’re afraid to be open with God, you’re turning aside from the most powerful and unique relationship anyone will ever encounter. 

Prayer is not a Performance
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25

            Paul and Silas were overheard by others, but their prayers and songs from prison were directed to God.  They were conversing with God through praises and petitions, coming before him humbly and audibly - and God’s response was amazing!  Whether alone, with one other person, or an entire group, our prayers are to God.  Jesus gives instructions concerning prayer when the disciples ask him, and it’s a matter of sincerity and love for God (not a graded assignment).  Women may generally be more verbal creatures, but for all of us, confidence and maturity in prayer grows through practice and study of God's Word.

Men are Spiritual Leaders
"I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling." 1 Timothy 2:1-8

            As your sisters in Christ, we hope to be the helpers God wired us to be.  In order for this to happen, we need you to lead.  We’re not concerned with your eloquence, but with your genuine efforts.  Cast aside fear and laziness, and put on selflessness and devotion (Ephesians 4:22-24).   Pray fervently in your private time with God, but also lead the church in praying together.  Praise God for who he is, and thank God for how he is at work.  Confess your sins to him.  Pray over the needs of others and yourself.  Pray that God be glorified in all things, and lead other believers to do the same. 

            Abraham, Isaac and Moses prayed.  Nehemiah prayed.  Jesus prayed.  The early church prayed.  There are mysteries and struggles involved, but let us do the same - praying specifically and praying BIG.  May we love God and love others through prayer! 

For further exploration:
A few scriptural references to prayer -- Nehemiah 1, Luke 11:1-13, Acts 4:23-31 & 12:1-17, Romans 8:26-27, Ephesians 6:18-20, Philippians 4:6-7 (also, see the book of Psalms for many prayers interspersed)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

"Yes All Women" are valued by God

            I recently heard murmurings of a Twitter trend called #yesallwomen.  A young man desired revenge for the lack of sexual attention he had been shown by women, resulting in his murder of 6 people and ending with his own suicide.  These events have inspired women to speak up against the misogyny they encounter in day-to-day life.   
            I was a bit slow to learn of the tragedy and ensuing response.  However, after reading articles and posts in which people vocalized the value of women, what came forth from me was a resounding: “YES!”  Much of what I’ve seen from the public is a support of biblical teaching, but I think this connection may be going unnoticed.  I want to share a *small* glimpse of what God teaches about women.

Women are created and known by God.
Samaritan woman: “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did.  Can this be the Christ?” John 4:29

            No woman is an accident.  No woman is hidden from God.  In his infinite wisdom, God created us with care and intentionality.  He knit us together in the womb, and knows our every thought.  [See Genesis 2:18, Psalm 139, John 4:17-18]

Women are loved and saved by God.
Jesus: “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34

            In sending Jesus to absorb mankind’s punishment for sin, God’s grace and mercy is extended to the world.  The greatest gift that can ever be given, salvation from sin and eternal life with God, is offered to all who follow Christ.  God does not show favoritism between males and females.
            The woman referenced in the verse above suffered from 12 years of bleeding, and was instantly healed by reaching out in faith to touch Jesus’ garment.  Such bleeding deemed her unclean by society, but she could never be too filthy for Jesus.  Forgiveness and salvation come not by our own works, so no person is beyond Jesus’ reach.  No person is a burden to him either – even though Jesus was on his way to heal a dying girl, he did not rush through the crowds as if the bleeding woman was an interruption to his mission.  Of even greater significance, I must point out that she was not only physically healed; being called daughter by Jesus affirms that she was spiritually saved by her faith in him.  [See John 3:16-18, Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:26-28, Mark 5:21-34, Leviticus 15:25, Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12, Romans 7:16-17]

Women are entrusted to do great works by God.
Esther: “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16

            Esther was used by God to bring a screeching halt to Haman’s plot of Jewish annihilation, which enabled the ancestral line to continue from Abraham to Jesus.  Her statement above reflects a confidence I also see in God’s people of the New Testament: “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24).  A more prevalent great work that God entrusts women with is that of being a wife and mother.
            God created women to be helpers, not in inferiority to men, but as part of a unique relationship designed by him as Creator.  In marriage, man and woman become one.  The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, and the wife is to respectfully submit to his leadership.  Such an excellent wife is declared more precious than jewels, and is entrusted to teach the generations of women behind her.  Of course, single women are similarly to walk faithfully as helpers and teachers of God’s goodness.  [See Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, Proverbs 31:10-31, Titus 2:3-5 & 11-15]

            In short, women are valued by God!  He created us, loves us, and desires that we be united with Christ as heirs in his kingdom.  Our value lies not in whether we can do what men do.  Our value is not in whether we provide sexual pleasure.  Our value lies in being given life by the God of the universe.  My value is found in my relationship with God, being forgiven by him and loved as a daughter!

For further exploration: