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Archive for October, 2011

As I read about various women from the Bible (Old or New Testament), I sometimes wonder why they seem to make it through their struggles when I seem so defeated in mine.  After all, Ruth certainly struggled—a young widow with a mother-in-law who was admittedly bitter and without means to care for herself—yet, she didn’t quit but showed grit and determination to find provision for their care.  Similarly, like real women of today, Sarah, Abigail, Rachel, Mary Mother of Jesus, Elizabeth, and all of the women whose stories were shared this month—all, faced life challenges from loss of livelihood, spouses, children, homes but yet God used them to not only impact the generation in which they lived, but their stories continue to model of us lives of faith we can learn from even today.

So, what am I lacking that my struggles seem so much more severe and so much more of a disappointment to a testimony of faith?

Careful consideration of this question over the past few months brought me to the convicting truth that it is consistency in my daily journey with the Lord.  There are days when I am consistently allowing God’s love to flow through me and I am kind, gracious, generous, positive and servant-hearted with those around me.   Then the next morning, I am more like Cruella de Vil (101 Dalamatians) or the Wicked Step-mother from Cinderella or Snow White stories.  I can’t use as an excuse hormones, PMS or “that time of the month” because I am years past those, yet, I get frustrated, exasperated, negative and…well, just exhibit unloving conduct toward those around me.

So, I started looking at what the Scriptures could teach me about consistency and were there specific references that could offer guidance on how to gain a more consistent attitude and heart for loving others with His Love.  I do love Jesus Christ and I truly do want others to see Him in my daily words and actions.  What will that take?  How would my life look if I found that consistency more days in a row?

Consistency is defined as “steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form” and is a behavior that is learned, not genetically inherited.  Consistency is a benefit that results from exercising self-control or disciplining one’s conduct.  Proverbs 5:23 reminds us that we will die for lack of self-control and be lost because of our foolishness.  The Message states it this way, “Death is the reward of an undisciplined life; your foolish decisions trap you in a dead end.”

Proverbs 6:23 assures us that “discipline” is the way to life.  While, II Timothy 1:7 offers the assurance that God has given us a spirit of boldness, power, love and self-control, not fear, timidity, weakness or laziness.

Journey with me this week as I share how I am learning the rewards of self-control but also dealing with the negative “baggage” from years of misunderstanding the truth about discipline.

Oh, Lord, Thank you for teaching me that I am not lacking but rather than my perspective has been skewed by the world’s view of a principle that will actually allow me to experience that abundant life You offer with consistent joy. 

 

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During the month of October, we have shared the personal and practical stories of real women from Scripture who experienced explosive faith:

Lydia—a business woman who lived her professional life and personal life in a way that others saw the irresistible appeal of her Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:13-40);

Priscilla—a wife, mother and friend who partnered with her husband serving the disciple Paul and meeting the needs of those in communities where they traveled (Acts 18);

Unnamed Hemorrhaging woman who though suffering with a debilitating and chronic medical condition was determined to find her healing through reaching out to Jesus so she could live a life of service for Him and for others (Mark 5:25-34);

Dorcas—a woman who used her sewing talent and generous spirit to minister to widows and others (Acts 9:36-42).

What characteristic did these women share?  Was there a common quality they shared that allowed their faith to explode so effectively that others were drawn closer to the cross of Jesus Christ and His saving grace?

This week, as we end October and move toward the joy of the traditional holiday season, let’s walk the journey together through the pages of scripture to see what guidance might allow our faith to explode and effectively leave similar testimonies for future generations of real women seeking real truth.

Oh, Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the wonder of Your love and draw us to those principles of truth that will fill us with the Joy that comes only from You.  Amen.     

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This week we are looking at explosive faith exhibited through practical acts of service by sharing about a real woman of Scripture who lived a common, ordinary life, but blessed many through her practical faith.  (Acts 9:36-43).

When Peter heard that Dorcas had died after listening to the pleas of the disciples and widows who mourned her death, he was moved to pray for God’s intervention.  (Acts 9:40).  Scripture doesn’t tell us what Peter asked for in his prayer, but we can be assured based on other passages, that Peter sought God’s best.

Sometimes those who serve us are taken home before we are ready to let go of them on this earth.  Sometimes, as with my dad, we believe there is still work for them to do….work that only they could perform.  However, in each situation we can be confident that God’s grace is sufficient (II Corinthians 12:9) and that His decision as to when one is called home is in His perfect timing.

In John 21: 20-23, Peter questioned Jesus about John asking, “What about him, Lord?”  Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  You follow me.”  (v. 22).  It is so easy to question why some wonderful servant of the Lord is called home prematurely (or at least in our minds, it seems premature), while others who seem less effective or inefficient continue to live as our neighbors, acquaintances or colleagues.  But God’s ways are not our ways and recognizing that often provides strength and courage to endure when one we love journeys home.  For reasons not explained in Scripture, when the widows and disciples mourned for Dorcas, God saw fit to allow her to come back “alive” to carry on in her ministry and work with the poor and needy.

The lesson glimpsed in these circumstances is that of a fulfilled life.  No matter when I am called home to heaven, will the life I leave and the legacy left reflect a fulfilled life?  Like Dorcas when that day comes, will I hear “well done my good and faithful servant.” (Matt 25:21-23) and share in the happiness of my Lord?

Lord, thank you for the example of Dorcas.  Thank you for the reminder that in the ordinary moments of my day I can still serve and honor you.  Open my eyes to see the needs of my neighbors or those of a stranger today that I might be the hands and feet of Jesus in their life.  Help me Lord God to show someone else your love so they too can find the fulfilled life you want all of us to enjoy with you for eternity.  Amen.    

 

 

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This week we are looking at explosive faith exhibited through practical acts of service by sharing about a real woman of Scripture who lived a common, ordinary life, but blessed many through her practical faith.  (Acts 9:36-43).

Perhaps you too have someone in your life who consistently serves in the background quietly.  Whether as a Sunday school teacher, a youth group leader, or one who volunteers to stack chairs after a church meeting, most of us can think of someone in our life who exhibited a servant heart.  For me, the first one to come to mind was my dad.  If a neighbor ever needed anything—a helping hand on a project, to borrow a tool, transportation to an appointment or something repaired—dad could be counted on to be available.  In fact, less than 4 hours before he went home to be with the Lord, he told my sister that the church camp needed more help than he had been giving so he was going to increase the volunteer hours each week.

Perhaps that type of mindset was behind the urging of the disciples and widows when the called for Peter to “at once.”  (Acts 9:39).  So compelling was the case those who mourned Dorcas’ death that Peter sent them all from the room and knelt and prayed.  (Acts 9:40).  Only after seeking God’s will for the situation did Peter then turn “toward the dead woman” and command her to “get up.”  Through the healing power of God’s love, Dorcas came back to continue to serve.  The testimony of her healing “became known all over Joppa.”  I am certain, however, that it wasn’t just the restoration of her life that was communicated across the land, but rather the full testimony of her life and what her service to others meant in advancing the God’s message of love.  For Dorcas to be fully alive would have meant service and giving.

We often say that my dad is still needed even though he went home more than 10 years ago; others have stepped up to handle those projects and responsibilities he had undertaken.  But none can or have been able to replace what he gave to so many—the testimony of God’s love through practical service.  Perhaps like me you want your life to be lived with such purpose that when you are called home others will feel there was work yet for you to do.  I am not racing to hurry home to be with Jesus, although I look forward to that day, but for now I just want to find those ways I can serve so others see His heart of grace and mercy.  How about you?

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This week we are looking at the explosive, practical faith of a real woman who lived an ordinary life at the time of the Christ.  (Acts 9:36-43).  Dorcas used her talent for sewing and her generous servant heart to love those in need with God’s love.  There is nothing in Scripture to indicate Dorcas gained wealth or material benefit from her acts of service.  Yet, because she was willing to use tangible items, such as clothing, it is clear that she developed deep abiding friendships with widows, which met their emotional and spiritual needs as well as physical need for clothing.

The friendships were so strong that the widows mourned her death and were compelled to share with the Apostle Peter how deeply she had touched their lives.  They weren’t just sharing with Peter the physical items she made for them, but clearly what those items signified—that someone cared, that God loved them, that they were valued and not just the scorn of society because they were poor widows.  (Acts 9:39).

Whether it is by sharing a meal, a piece of clothing, making a prayer shawl for a cancer patient or baby stocking caps for premature babies, women today continue to serve as Dorcas—spreading God’s love through needle and thread or other talents and gifts.

What might you offer today?  Who offered you God’s love through some small token today?  

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Find a need and meet it.

Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43) found a way to use the talent she had to meet a need.  She may have been a widow herself.  We are not told in Scripture her status or social standing in the community.  What we are told is that when she fell sick and died, she left a vacuum in the lives of many.

Would my life leave such a vacuum? 

Jesus Christ told us how our love for Him is to be exhibited in our world when He commanded us “Feed My Sheep.”  (John 21:17)  In essence, Jesus was instructing us to live a life of service to others with such purpose that the love inside of me effectively works through me and flows into the lives of all those I meet.  (Romans 5:5).  Living a life of purpose seeks to meet the most needs of others. “You can get all you want out of life if you just help enough other people get all they want out of life” ~ Zig Ziglar.  Interestingly enough history never considers those great who demanded to be served rather than serving; greatness is serving not being served.

 

Dorcas’ life so touched others that when she died, two disciples went to Peter and urged him to come immediately.  (Acts 9:38).  When Peter arrived, the mourning widows presented a compelling picture of the effectiveness of Dorcas’ testimony.  They showed “him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas made…”. (Acts 9:39).

There are so many times when I feel as though I can’t do much…I am too busy…too broke…too needy myself, that I do nothing.  These brief few words challenge me to recognize that the Lord God calls and equips the willing.

Years ago I had a broken leg in the middle of a very icy winter season.  A friend showed up one day with several microwave dinners.  She was uncomfortable and embarrassed that they weren’t homemade meals, but she gave me a powerful lesson that day.  It wasn’t the home cooking that was going to meet my needs.  Knowing that a friend cared was what I needed that day.  In other words, it wasn’t the quality of the gift that made it special—it was that there was a caring heart behind the effort; a heart that reflected God’s love.  God uses ordinary you and me and ordinary items/situations of life to remind us that He will loves us, cares about meeting all of our needs.  (Phil 4:19).  May we each allow God to use the little we might have to offer today to draw another to His irresistible love.

 

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“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor.”  Acts 9:36

There are only a few sentences in Scripture about the woman named Dorcas, but what little is written confirms that this was a woman who touched lives in immeasurable ways through her “doing good and helping the poor.”

Dorcas was a woman with a serving mindset and willing hands.  Dorcas met the needs of widows in the community by sewing clothing for them and meeting other needs through friendship.  (Acts 9:39).  Her acts of kindness met practical needs for those widows.

Dorcas gave unselfishly.  I can know that because there is indication that many outside a small circle knew of her service.  Yet, because she gave time, energy and her talent (ability to sew) she is included as a woman of faith in Scripture we can learn from.

A friend serves as an associate pastor in a small country church and yet her ministry in the community is cleaning for others.  She enjoys cleaning and ministers through sharing this service and the money she is paid meets ministry needs in the church family.  She is a modern day Dorcas and challenges me with her life to find small ways I can open opportunities for others to see the Lord God’s grace and mercy.    Today, Lord, help me live with purpose in such a way that will honor You and bring You glory; perhaps by providing a service or just by listening, or smiling.   But Lord let me know what I can do that You can use to touch another.

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