Awake, My Soul!

Awake, My Soul!

There are plenty of things in life I don’t know, but I am certain of some things. I know, for example, when I am awake. Take this moment, for instance. The fact that I am awake is evident in the fact that I am typing on my keyboard and taking sips of good coffee. By all accounts, I am awake. Or am I? Am I really awake? Am I awake to the most important things in life? More accurately, am I truly awake to God?

This question was triggered after reading a statement of David in Psalm 57. David wrote, “Awake, my glory!” (v. 8). Another translation reads like this: “Awake, my soul!” However it is translated, David is referring to his innermost being. David was speaking to himself, the deepest part of himself in actuality, saying, “Hey, wake up!” It’s David telling himself to be awake to the reality of God.

I find that a challenging thought during this time when so much of life has been thrown off-kilter due to the new COVID-19 rhythm. To what am I awake? What do I long for? Do I primarily long for a return to some sense of normalcy? If so, is this time of largely having to shelter in place just a period to endure and wait for ‘normal’ to return? How much is my soul awake to God at this time? How does this strange period of time awaken me to the realities of who God is, or to what He wants to do in me? In our church? In our community? Does my soul view this time of rhythm interruption as a source of frustration or as an invitation from the Lord to be awake to Him?

I write this, in part, simply as a way to further process some of what’s going on in my own soul. The other reason, though, is to simply pose the question on a broader basis: Are we really awake to God each and every day, no matter what we are doing? Even if life has been radically altered in some way, are we awake to the infinite majesty and glory of the Lord? My hope is that we come through this time with souls even more kindled with passion for God who rarely works in predictable patterns.

To Love is to Act

To Love is to Act

#ToLoveIsToAct

“He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” Proverbs 14:31

In Proverbs, Solomon put together two thoughts to make a complete picture: God our Maker is honored or mocked depending on how we treat others. The proverb says we honor God when we extend grace to the needy. Jesus taught His disciples, “When you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” Luke 14:13-14.

When Israel was taken into captivity by the surrounding nations of Assyria and Babylon, they were the people who were considered to be poor, crippled, lame and blind in the eyes of the nations. Israel lost her independence, her economy, and her land. It was almost 400 years for the Israelites in Assyria before they would return to Israel and about 70 years for those in Babylon. How dependent they found themselves on the nations in which they dwelt. More importantly, they learned to repent and remember their dependence is on God alone. Though many had turned from the Lord, there was still a remnant of believers. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are such examples. Ezekiel preached to the captives. Nehemiah led the first group of Israelites back to Jerusalem.

All the while, a young woman named Esther had been raised to the position of Queen in the Persian Empire. When a plot to annihilate the Jews was uncovered, Esther was initially afraid to help out; but she sought the Lord, received wise counsel (“Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14), and ultimately delivered protection for her people throughout the empire. The celebration of Purim, which honors God’s faithfulness through the life of Esther, is still held in Israel today as a remembrance of God’s provision for His outcast people.

As Christians, we can likewise honor the Lord by celebrating His faithfulness to us as we look for ways to use the means He has given to us to help others, especially the poor, crippled, lame, and blind among us. After all, that’s what God does for us. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” Romans 5:8.

This week as Purim is celebrated, we have the opportunity to remember the outcasts. In Syria, there are over a million displaced people trapped between warring Turkey, Russia, Iran, and Syria. One headline writer calls it “Syria’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in its 9-year civil war.” This week as we seek to honor our Maker, we will do well to remember the admonition of Solomon: He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,  but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.” May we rile against the evil perpetrated by others by actively helping the needy on Earth. By this can we honor our Maker and make the great name of Jesus known throughout the world until He returns!

Our friends at Partners Relief and Development have people in Syria helping provide needed food and medical relief. To learn more about the war in Syria and how you can help by prayer and donations, visit Partners Relief and Development. You can also contribute to a special collection we are taking here for the ministry of Partners in this afflicted region of Syria. You can make a check payable to CCMV and write “Syria relief” in the memo line, or you can give through the church app by selecting “Syria relief.”

Likeness Over Differences

You don’t need to look too hard to find evidence that we are living in a sinful world. Even those of us who are Christians, regularly referred to as saints in New Testament letters, struggle with sin. A quick glance at the headlines or turn on social media quickly confirms this. Too often I’m convicted by my own selfishness and reminded of Paul’s instruction to the believers in Philippi: “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4).

The parable of the Good Samaritan, though told 2,000 years ago, is a timeless reminder of the high value God places on compassion. We are taught by Jesus that despite the myriad of differences we may have with one another, we are alike in the one most important way: each person is created in God’s image.

So, how do we keep the cacophony of culture from drowning out the sweet dulcet sounds of the Gospel? How then does the Gospel constrain us when it comes to showing compassion to others?

The Gospel tells us that we’re sinners in need of the cleansing, all-sufficient blood of Christ. The Gospel, when received with a thankful heart, compels us to show the same grace to others that God has shown to us in Jesus. It is important to understand that the Gospel not only saves us, but also empowers us to follow the most holy commands: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.

The good news of Jesus living a sinless life on earth, being crucified without guilt, buried without His own tomb, and raised again by His own Word transforms the guiltiest of hearts into Christ-honoring, love-bearing, neighbor-serving ambassadors of heaven’s Gift on earth.

How then should we respond to the story of the Good Samaritan?

I encourage you to spend some time in the attached study guide written by Pastor Jamin Roller. If you make it through one page per day, you’ll have spent 5 days studying the parable of the Good Samaritan.

“All of us carry biases and divisions within us. It’s part of what it means to be sinful people in a broken world, but Jesus came to free us from that bondage so that we can walk in the freedom of loving in a way that displays God’s love for us.”

Read through the rest of the study guide here.

 

Dad Bonding 101

Dad Bonding 101

Now I don’t want to stereotype but I’ve heard that sometimes men find it hard to ask for help. I also have a hunch that men probably feel as inadequate as we do when it comes to parenting. This is not a good combination! But I am here to help whether it’s asked for it or not! HA! Here is an article by a dad that is sure to be relatable!

https://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/daniel-darling/ten-things-nobody-tells-you-about-being-a-dad.html

Also, another great way to gain insight into Christian dad parenting is listening to podcasts. There are so many great ones out there by Christian dads. Podcasts are so easy to listen to because you can do it anywhere…car, office, working out, etc. and no one needs to know you are doing it! Just Google “Christian Parenting Dad Podcasts” and you will get a whole variety of topics and speakers.

True Love

True Love

As February is a month of love, we would like to explore the three types of love we see throughout the Bible. The three types of love are Eros, Phileo, and Agape.

Eros is the most common love associated with Valentine’s Day. Eros is romantic love that we see in the Song of Solomon.

Phileo is the love you have for a friend; think of brotherly love. This brotherly love was shown in the Bible as we saw Jesus weep for Lazarus.

Agape is described as unconditional love, and the word picture you can use for that is that of a parent and a child. Agape is God’s love for the world as shown in Christ. This is the love Christians should show each other and all people.