Friday, December 22, 2017

Advent 2017 # 22: The Savior Who Understands

Flu's been going around our office. More accurately, it's a flu-like viral illness that makes you feel terrible, with a cough that sounds like you're hacking up your lung. I don't want to catch it.

This morning, I awakened at a ridiculous hour with sneezing and a stuffy nose. "Aww, Lord. I don't want to be sick at Christmas," I whined as I sneezed a few more times.

I couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to start the day early, and opened my Bible to Isaiah 53. I've literally read this passage every year for more than 20 years, but I didn't know it as well as I thought.

"A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief...Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried..." Isaiah 53:3,4 nasb

The word translated as "sorrows" actually means pains; the word translated as "grief" actually means disease or sickness.

Jesus carried our pain and sickness when He went to the cross. Long before we had the first twinge of discomfort or the first shiver of fever, Jesus already knew it, had already carried it. 

Nor even the sickness that seems too much to bear is new territory for Jesus. Neither flu, cancer, heart disease, Celiac sprue, or crazy middle-of-the night sneezing, is new to Him. He knows about it all. He's carried it. He's experienced it.

I can't understand this mystery, but my failure of comprehension doesn't make it any less real. 

He knows about feeling tired and sick, but having to keep going anyway. 

He knows about being so ill the doctors expect you die, and about the agonizing struggle to recover afterward. 

He knows about pain and feeling like you'll never be comfortable again.

He knows about seeing someone you love suffer as disease robs them of vitality and life.

No matter what we face, we can take heart in this: Jesus understands and He cares. We don't go through our trials alone. He's been there before and He's right there with us again.

"Casting all your cares on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
ps - I don't have the dreaded flu-like illness, just acute allergies. All is well. 

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In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#21: When Persecution Hits a Little Too Close to Home 

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Teach us to Pray, part 25: Hallowed be thy name: Jehovah Shalom, TheLord is Peace

And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. 'Give us each day our daily bread. 'And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:2-4 NASB)

Jehovah Shalom

The Lord is Peace. What a beautiful promise, especially when we remember that Jesus told his disciples, "My peace I leave with you." John 14:27. In this tumultuous world, filled with war and evil and sin, peace is in short supply, even among God's people. It's easy to forget that we're the ones who should have an abundance of peace in the midst of trouble.

Perhaps part of the reason we lack peace is that we don't understand what it means to have it. It's not the absence of conflict, trouble, or sorrow. Shalom, translated as peace or absence of strife, is derived from the word shâlêm. This Hebrew word means "to be complete" or "to be sound." 

Jehovah Shalom is used only once in Scripture and is found in Judges 6:24. This is the story of Gideon. Because of their sin, God had given Israel into the hands of the Midianites for seven years. It had been a horrible time, because the Midianites destroyed all the crops as well as all the livestock. Not only had they brought war, but they had imposed famine. Somehow, Gideon had wheat and, in an attempt to preserve it and hide it from the Midianites, was beating it out inside the wine press. (This was likely a dug hole in the ground with a drain that allowed the juice to run out after the grapes were crushed. Depending on the vineyard, this could have been a deep hole.) 

An angel of the Lord came to Gideon and addressed him as "valiant warrior". This was an interesting choice of terms, because Gideon saw himself as a nobody who was worth nothing. He felt completely inadequate. "The Lord is with you," the angel told him. Gideon's answer was just a little surprising. (this is the Leanna paraphrase) "Yeah, right. If He's with us, why are the Midianites whipping us so bad? And what happened to all His great miracles? We don't have any miracles now. If God is so great, where is He and why isn't He helping us?" 

What happened next must have been so surprising to Gideon. The angel looked straight at Gideon and told him to get going and deliver Israel from the Midianites. "God hasn't abandoned Israel, Gideon. He has sent you." What a word that is! 

If I could only remember those words every day, what a difference I might make in the world around me. God hasn't abandoned America, He has sent you, Leanna. In fact, He has sent every one of us to live in obedience and make His difference in our world, so it is imperative that we recognize this and get started. Why not join with me in making that mighty difference? It is not too late to save our nation.

Back to Gideon. He could not believe what he had heard. He needed a sign, so he ran back in his house to get a "peace offering", then put it on a rock. The angel took his staff and touched the meat and the bread. Fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the offering. Finally, Gideon was convinced that he had been in the presence of the angel of the Lord and was frightened, thinking he might drop dead because he had seen the face of the angel of God. 

"Peace to you, do not fear," the angel said to Gideon. Judges 6:23. Gideon had no peace of his own. He was a frightened young man who had lived his life in insignificance. When that angel spoke peace (shalom) to him, however, he was given the peace of God and it changed his life. The strife outside Gideon (the war with the Midianites) did not change at that moment. Instead, God completely filled Gideon with wholeness of spirit and removed the fear and the turmoil that had raged within him. Gideon was given the kind of peace that does not depend on circumstances, but on the truth of the power of God.

The peace of God is something you and I can have for ourselves. We, too, can be completed with peace. I learned this verse from Isaiah as a child and it still speaks to me today.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: 
because he trusteth in Thee. 
Isaiah 26:3 KJV

When I focus my mind steadfastly on the Lord, trusting only in Him, He will not only give me peace, He will keep me in perfect peace! How amazing! All that is required to have peace and keep it is to look constantly, consistently to our Lord in every situation.

The Apostle Paul knew about having peace in every situation and he wrote about it in his letter to the Philippians.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6-7 

If I want peace, I can have it, but I must choose it. In my choosing, I take my fear, my concern, my needs to our Lord with thanksgiving. I am to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, giving thanks when I don't feel like it, as I pray.

How do we hallow the name of Jehovah Shalom? Paul makes it clear that you cannot choose to have anxiety and peace simultaneously. Which do we want? Peace or fear. If we want the Shalom of Jehovah, it can be ours. Honoring His name begins by focusing our hearts and minds on the Peace Giver, allowing Him to give us His peace until we are completely filled by it and kept in it.

Peace. It can be ours if we will accept it. Shalom. 

If you are interested in reading more about peace, you might enjoy this blog post:

Advent 2017 #21: When Persecution Hits a Little Too Close to Home

Today's blog post was almost finished when I read back over it, hit save, and closed the document. I intended to tell you about a pastor I know who's going through a tough time of persecution, to paint a word picture that would drop you right in the action and let you feel the fear, the uncertainty, the agony of opposing the government for the cause of Christ.

I started over because I'm afraid my words might make things worse for him and his family. Instead, I thought, I'd write about how I felt, but I was present for some of the government "attention," and that, too, might make things worse.

This is my third attempt to write a blog post today. Though I wanted to write a cayenne pepper kind of article, I'm blinking back tears and choosing vanilla to protect those I love. 

This morning, Isaiah's words spoke directly to my heart:

How lovely on the mountains
are the feet of Him who brings good news,
who announces peace
and brings good news of happiness,
who announces salvation... 
Isaiah 52:7 nasb

My friend and his wife have lovely, lovely feet because they are among those who bring good news of happiness and announce salvation to all who will listen. They're in the midst of relentless persecution and they refuse to deny Christ and His call. They press on regardless of the cost.

I want to help, but all I can do for now is pray and ask you to join with me. Please pray for my dear friends to be brave for the cause of Christ, to keep going as the government pressure increases, to be faithful no matter the cost. 

Even as I type those words, I dread the price they will pay for obedience, and wonder if I would be willing to serve as they serve.

Persecution is like fuel to the gospel fire. I want it to spread, but I didn't want such hardship to breathe life to the flames. The difficult times have come, and, somewhere down the road, I'll rejoice over the strong and vital church that was birthed in this adversity. I'm not there yet.

I'm begging God to make their suffering count in such a way that even the officials will want the faith they see in my friends. Please pray that, too.

Their situation is just one of many. According to the website, 322 Christians are killed for their faith every month, 3,864 per year. Between now and Christmas (four days from now), more than 40 people will die because of their faith in the Savior, whose birthday we celebrate. That doesn't include the hundreds more per month who endure violent treatment ranging from beatings to rape to forced marriages. 

Eleven people every day until Christmas (and after) will be murdered because of their response to the Christ child. Would our celebration of His birth give adequate evidence of our faith to endanger our lives for Him? 

Selah. Let's pause and ponder this for a moment. 

Our religious freedom in the U.S. is rare and must not be wasted. We can share Christ, and we must. We can serve, and we should. If we refuse, we will be called to account one day.

Please pause a moment in the midst of holiday parties, shopping, and family gatherings to pray for our eleven brothers and sisters around the world who will die today because of their faith, and for their families. 

Pray for my friends.

"If one member suffers, all suffer together..." 1 Corinthians 12:26 nasb

"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." Hebrews 13:3 nasb
Here are links to a few articles about persecution you might find informative:
3) Christians: A Persecuted Minority?
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Advent 2017 # 20: God's Promise is Worth the Wait

A lot can change in three years, and it has. (I've written some of what you're about to read before, but I'm repeating it to make a more complete "whole" to this story. Please bear with me.)

In fall of 2014, I took a break from medicine to write. I fully expected to return to practice in a few months, but I planned to enjoy the holidays while I wrote. 

Everything changed in November, and it was partly the mayor's fault. An email promoting National Novel Writing Month arrived in my inbox. My town could be a "Come Write In" site, it suggested. 

I loved the idea, so I set to work. My fellow aldermen and our mayor agreed. I ordered vinyl decals for the door, special bookmarks, and, together, we set up two donated computer terminals for the potential novelists. I posted the opportunity on social media and talked to anyone who'd listen. I begged people to give novel writing a try.

"What if no one comes to write?" the mayor asked. 

"They will. But if they don't, I'll do it myself," I joked. 

The Mayor wasn't kidding. No one came. She held me to my flippant word, so I sat down and wrote the first sentence of fiction I'd ever written, and another, and another. Pretty soon I had a paragraph, a page, a chapter. 

I wrote more than 50,000 words that month, and called it a novel. In retrospect, it was terrible, but I didn't know it yet. I had a plot, characters, and action, but the writing wasn't publication-ready by any stretch of a true novelist's imagination.

By January, I thought it was time for an agent. On January 4, 2015, I sent my first query letter. (For my non-writer friends, a query letter is a certain type of letter sent to agents to see if they'd be interested in representing your novel.)  

Before I hit send on that query letter, I prayed for a word from God about the process and read until I found Isaiah 42:16. 

"And I will lead the blind by a way they do not know,
In paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will make darkness into light before them
And rugged places into plains.
These are the things I will do,
And I will not leave them undone."

I laughed when I read it. I felt a little blind, and as if I was going a way I didn't know and didn't understand. It wasn't the most encouraging verse I'd ever claimed, but I stuck with it. The part about darkness and rugged places didn't appeal to me, but I was willing to go as long as God stuck to the "I will not leave them undone" part. 

My heart pounded. I felt exposed and vulnerable. It seemed the most risky thing I'd ever done. What if she didn't like it? What if she said I'd wasted all my time and effort? My finger hovered over the send button. I touched it, backed off, touched it again, repeatedly. Finally, with one more prayer for favor, I pressed the key and sent the query. 

The agent was a gift from God. In less than thirty minutes, she replied requesting additional pages and, eventually, asked to read the entire manuscript. 

She didn't offer to represent me because she had limited her practice to romance, and my novel wasn't in her genre. What she gave me instead was encouragement. She loved my style. I was a good writer, she said. If I wrote a romance, she wanted to see it first. She was sure there was an agent for me. She gave me hope and the will to keep trying.

Learning to write fiction has been a long, hard process. I tend to repeat words for emphasis, but they're distracting in fiction and have to go. My commas aren't always in the right places. They have to be corrected. Sometimes I swap verb tenses in the middle of the page or paragraph, but they have to be consistent. 

It's easy to tell a story, not show it, but not as great a read. "Showing" by dropping the reader in the action and allowing them to experience the emotion of the scene is hard, but it has to be done. It's why the Caregiver Chronicles were my most-read blog series ever. It's also why views drop off when I write a Greek word study. Who wants dry and boring when you can have action and interesting? No one.

Three years after I completed the first draft of my first novel, I signed with a literary agency. In the intervening years, I took online classes, read a mountain of books on writing, joined the American Christian Fiction Writers organization, attended a writing conference, hired a teaching editor. I spent countless hours searching through my manuscript to find and correct errors. 

I worked on the novel until I was sick of it. The process felt hopeless to me. It was too hard and I couldn't do it. I wondered if I should leave the writing to the English majors. 

My editor suggested I set the project aside for a while. "Come back to it when it's fresh again," she told me. She was right. After a few months, I had a new attitude and a better perspective. I set to work again. It was still hard, but I made my way through.

Monday, my agent sent me the proposal template I'm to use. My stomach churned as I read it. Too hard. Too elegant. Too polished. "I can't do this. I'm not this good. I'm not ready," I whined silently. My sense of dread at the effort threatened to overwhelm me. 

I closed the file without printing it. 

This morning, I opened Isaiah and began to read chapter 42. I turned the page and found the passage I claimed before my first query. I laughed again, but this time with delight.

God has led me, the blind, in a way I didn't know. He has guided me through paths I'd never traveled before, made darkness into light, and turned rugged places into plains. He hasn't left anything undone, and He won't. 

The template that frightened me is merely another rugged place that God will make into a plain. It's simply another learning curve to conquer, another task to complete. It can be done, and it must if I'm to follow this path. 

Sometimes God moves in an instant. Sometimes, He takes centuries to accomplish His promise. None of the intervening time is wasted. The time between promise and fruition of my writing career has served to prepare me for what God has planned.

The question is never whether God will do His part, but whether I will do mine. When God promised a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, it was as good as done. The One Micah wrote about has come. The response to our Savior is up to us. Will we accept the payment He's made for our sin and follow Him or not? 

This Christmas, let's use the advent season to examine our hearts and lives. Is our response to the Babe in the Manger one of worship and surrender or do we treat Him as merely one more sweet piece in a nativity scene? Is He our divine Lord or a lovely decoration? Does our response to Him drive us to serve and love or decorate and shop?

The advent season, a time of waiting and preparation for the Christ Child, is designed to help us prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. Will we respond as disciples or as bystanders? 

God kept His promise, and it was worth the wait. The rest is up to us. How will we welcome Jesus this year? 

"Unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord..." Luke 2:11 
If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#19 When Grinch and Scrooge Threaten Christmas

Here are links to other posts in this series:#18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard, #17: Church and the Mattress Set#16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Advent 2017 # 19: When Grinch and Scrooge Threaten Christmas

The tree is up and the greenery's on the mantel. Advent candles are in the holder, surrounded by fresh-cut rosemary. Gifts are wrapped and under the tree. 

I've made a start on "Christmas," but the fall door decoration is still up, all the nativity sets are still safely stored in boxes, and I doubt either of those will change.

I've worried there might be a little grinchy, scroogeness in me this year. Usually, I'm deep in Isaiah, finding profound truths to share and having amazing God-experiences that delight my soul and drive me to write. 

But not this December.

I'm deep in Isaiah, but it's driving contemplation, not words.

Ten weeks ago, Sam and I ate lunch together at my favorite Thai restaurant. I marveled that an 87-year old man who'd never heard of Thailand would embrace cuisine so different from the peas and mayonnaise he preferred. We laughed and talked as we lingered over our plates. Sam insisted it was the best food he'd ever eaten. 

My life changed radically, and permanently, during the weeks following that meal. 

There's been a lot of good. I had a great trip to the Middle East, led three Whisper Gatherings while I was there, and enjoyed my first medical mission outreach in years. I gained a terrific new literary agent and a great literary agency. My manuscript won its division in the ACFW First Impressions competition. God met every need, and He was generous beyond anything I deserve. 

I should have plenty of fodder for impassioned blog posts. After all the emotion of the Caregiver Chronicles, though, it seems as if I've run out of passion. My writing feels bland. I can't even move my own heart with my words.

I've worried about the slump, fretted that I'm losing my spark. Finally, I went back in my memory to the day the blog began. "Faith lived out loud," was the theme back then, and it still is. "Lord," I prayed. "What am I supposed to do? I don't have it right now." 

The answer from that still, small voice was so simple. "Keep living your faith out loud." 

This year, my life is quite different than last, with hard and very positive changes. Both will require adjustments in my routine. Neither require an outpouring of emotion to make the transition. 

For now, I'm in a season of quiet, of being still, knowing He is God, and savoring His presence. My writing's not broken. My spark's not gone. This subdued Leanna is only temporary, but it's still "faith lived out loud." 

Not everything about a Christian's walk of faith is exciting or emotional. Even Jesus needed times of stillness in the wilderness with His Father. He didn't preach any sermons while He was there, but He always left the divine quiet with fire in His words and love pouring forth.

Isaiah wrote about what I call "soul fatigue." (another Leanna paraphrase coming up:) God's the only One who never gets tired or needs a nap. The rest of us easily become completely worn out. There's no need to panic when that happens. Wait on God. He'll give strength in ways we can't even imagine. Before we know it, we'll rise up like an eagle, powerful and capable again.

I haven't turned into Scrooge or the Grinch, and I don't have writers' block. I'm simply walking through a normal season of life. Grief and change happen to us all. If we're wise, we'll take time to savor the good times and grieve the losses. We'll be still until the work of quiet is done. We'll wait until God renews our strength. 

In Advent, joy comes when the night is over and the delay is done. Our Savior lives and He's still on His throne. No matter why we're in a holding pattern, the solution is the same. Be still. Hang on. Remember, He's not finished yet, and His plan is worth the wait.

If you've never been through a season of quiet, I hope you'll be patient with me and learn from my experience. When it's your turn, take the time to process, to grieve, to grow. It might not be convenient, especially at Christmas, but it'll be worth it somewhere down the road. 

"Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary." 
             Isaiah 40:31 nasb
In case you haven't heard of Sam before, here are a few posts that will help: 
Where We Are Now, Love That's More than Words, When Sam Couldn't Stay and I Had to Say Goodbye, and Life After Sam.

If this post has touched your heart, please like and share to help our digital outreach grow. Your help makes a huge difference. Thanks!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard

Here are links to other posts in this series: #17: Church and the Mattress Set,
#16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait#14 When Decorating the Tree Was Almost Too Hard to Do

Monday, December 18, 2017

Advent 2017 #18: Harvesting the Sweet from the Hard

The distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is roughly 100 miles. We don't know whether Joseph and Mary, who was nearing term in her pregnancy, traveled by foot, cart, or astride a donkey, but the trip likely took a week, if not longer. 

There were no air-conditioned vehicles, only fresh air, hot sun, cool nights, and dusty roads. They ate what they could carry with them or purchase along the way.

By the time they reached Bethlehem, Mary's labor had probably already started. They accepted the only shelter available to them, in a stable. This wasn't a wooden barn like we have in the United States. In Israel, it was most likely a cave, so there was no door to close out the night. The "manger" was probably a stone trough with a hollowed-out area to hold feed. 

There were no epidurals or pain medications, no padded mattresses. Mary had none of the comforts to which we've become accustomed. After the delivery, she had none of the privacy we might want, either. 

Mary was undoubtedly exhausted from the long journey, followed by the delivery of her first child, but, before she could rest, the shepherds showed up.

I wouldn't have felt hospitable. I might have told Joseph to have them come back later, after I'd had time for a nap, but not Mary. She welcomed the shepherds, listened to their story about the angels singing, and treasured every word.

Mary harvested the sweet in the midst of the hard and cherished it like gold. Her remarkable attitude wasn't birthed with baby Jesus. It began long before. When the angel arrived with the news that would change her life forever, she rejoiced at the path God had chosen for her and praised Him, despite the consequences she surely knew would come.

She chose joy, even when life was difficult, and gave thanks for whatever came her way. Her faith, coupled with her sweet attitude, found favor with God. 

I don't always choose joy. Do you? It's easier for us to grumble about trials than rejoice in them. That's not the way to please God, though. His desire is to see the fruit of the Spirit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those good qualities don't happen automatically. We must choose to allow the Spirit to work in us and transform us. 

This Advent season, let's prepare to celebrate the birth of our King by allowing God to create in us a Mary-heart that chooses joy and thanksgiving. Let's harvest the sweetness in the midst of our difficult times, welcome those God sends our way, and keep our eyes on the One who came as a baby to set us free.

"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19 nasb 
Please like and share this post. When you do, it expands our ability to reach more people, and makes a bigger difference than you can imagine! Thanks for helping!

In case you missed yesterday's post, here's the link:#17: Church and the Mattress Set

Here are links to other posts in this series: #16: Taking Our Confusion to the One Who UnderstandsWhen Rest Isn't Optional and Christmas Has to Wait#14 When Decorating the Tree Was Almost Too Hard to DoWhen Christmas Changes for the Better#12 The Snuggling Savior#11 The Heavenly Rejoicing Party #10 When Peace is Fleeting but Jesus is Still Our Joy#9: God's Love Language#8: The Love that Saves Us from the Maggot Bed#7: Finding the Safe Place in a Crazy World#6: The Preparation of God's Love, #5: When Joy Flowed Forth and Splashed Into My Heart , #4 The King Who Will Not Let Us Down., #3 Preparing for Transformation#2 Preparing for the King with an Humble Heart, and #1 Getting Ready for Jesus.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Advent 2017 #17: Church and the Mattress Set: Life as Christ Intended

When I graduated from high school, my mother gave me a brass bed she'd bought from a woman in our church. I loved that bed, but it was heavy and huge. 

I left it behind when I moved to college. By the time I bought a house of my own, the bed had been in Mama's storage house for years, and one of the bedrails was missing. I took the bed and single rail with the expectation that I'd find another one.

I didn't. 

Nearly thirty years later, I decided to put the bed in Ryan's room and determined to find a matching rail. The antique bed websites I searched gave directions in no uncertain terms. Don't lose a rail. You won't find another one. I found a few paired rails, but very few like mine. They were exorbitantly expensive. 

Finally, one day a couple of weeks ago, I prayed again about my rail and had the distinct impression I should Google it. Certain it was a low-yield waste of time, I entered "antique bed rail B style" in my search engine. The first entry was a single rail, exactly the kind I needed, for a price I could afford. I ordered it.

The rail arrived on Thursday and fit perfectly. There was one problem though. No mattress. The search for mattresses was completely overwhelming. In the midst of Christmas preparations, it was too much. Finally, I did what I always do. Prayed for a mattress and box springs. 

Yesterday, I messaged my friend and fellow church member about something I needed for Sunday school today. While we were texting, I mentioned my need for a mattress set. They had just given one away, she told me, but her husband would be on the lookout.

"Why don't you get Dianne to email the church?" she suggested.

"What? And ask about a mattress set?"

"Sure. People do it all the time. If someone has one to get rid of, it'll be a help for them, too."

I was stunned. I'd seen those emails before, but hadn't thought much about them. "Like family?" I texted back.

"Yes. Family."

Truth slammed into me with the force of a freight train. This was what Jesus intended. When one of us has a need, another will meet it. We'll love as Christ loved, in deeds, not merely words. 

When Sam was in my home, on hospice, sick as he could be and getting worse every day, my church was there, helping. I knew we took care of each other when there was sickness, but I never dreamed the love of our church would extend intentionally to practical help for every day life.

This is first century, Acts-style church, and it's amazing. No wonder people were so shocked by the early church's love for one another. 

I'm shocked, too.

Not long after, my friend texted me with good news. Her husband had been outside for a walk and stopped to talk to their neighbor, Lesia. She had a mattress set she wanted to give away. A few hours later, she and my friends helped me load in my truck.

"I just love to be a part of God blessing someone," Lesia told me. I love it, too, but being on the receiving end is an humbling, stunningly beautiful experience. 

Jesus came as part of a family, His relationship with His disciples was that of life-in-common family, and He intended His church to function as a family, as well. We're to love each other as He loved us. Wide open. Generous. Loving. Sacrificial. 

Want to be more like the early church? Don't limit yourself to a seat on a pew or a place in a committee meeting. See a need and meet it. Give with a cheerful heart. Be the church of Jesus by doing what He did. Love. Give. Serve. 

"All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. Acts 4:32 niv

Please like and share this post. When you do, it expands our ability to reach more people, and makes a bigger difference than you can imagine! Thanks for helping!