It’s been nice having a baby in the nursery at church again. But you forget what it takes to care for an infant when you haven’t had to do it for awhile. There are diapers and wipes and creams. They’ve got changes of clothes, pacifiers, toys, drops for gas, bibs and blankets. You have bottles that have to have formula mixed into them and warmed. They have to be fed and diapered and rocked. And that’s just for a couple of hours!
I enjoy spending that time in the nursery with baby, but I am also happy to hand him back to mom at the end of service. My baby becomes a teenager in about a month. And while part of me is sad that she is growing up so fast, I love watching her grow into the beautiful young woman she is becoming. I know that someday she will be grown and she will go out on her own. I can’t keep it from happening – I can’t keep her as a baby. Since that is the case, I have to do my best to prepare her for adulthood.
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
When you become a Christian, you are reborn. You are a new creature in Christ. You might be 10 years old or you might be 50, but you are a newborn in the Lord. Think of it as a “do over.” Kids understand the “do over.” When they are playing a game and something just didn’t go right, someone says “do over.” Then it’s as if the whole thing never happened and they start over.
When we ask Christ to be our personal Savior, we get a “do over.” We ask to be forgiven of all our sins and the slate is wiped clean. We get to start fresh and not just become a new person or a better person, but the person that God had always intended us to be.
1 Peter 2:2-3
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Like a newborn child, you have to be fed. You have to take in the Word of God and let it nourish your spirit. As you read, study, pray and worship, you will begin to grow spiritually. Just like no one is physically born as an adult, no one starts out as a mature Christian.
Unfortunately, some people stay on the milk. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the Corinthian church.
1 Corinthians 3:1-3
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?
Paul could see their spiritual immaturity. They were fighting among themselves and acting jealous. They behaved like spoiled children instead of adult members of the church. (Ever see anything like that in your church?) He says they were still worldly, meaning they let their personal desires have place before God’s desires.
A lot of Christians are in that place today. They have made a statement of faith that they believe in Christ and want to serve God. They go to church on Sunday morning. But then the rest of the week they go right back into their old life. Nothing ever changes. Sunday rolls around and they get a bottle full of feeding and it’s just enough to sustain them. They never take in any more and they never grow. Not only are they not growing, but they are also missing out on so many wonderful blessings that come with growing and maturing in God.
Maybe it’s because they look at getting saved as the end instead of a beginning. They have come to the conclusion that they need God and they go to church and ask God into their lives. They figure, okay that’s done, let’s see what else is on the “to do list” of life. But getting saved is just the beginning.
So how are you going to grow up as a Christian? Just like that newborn baby, you are going to have to transition from milk to solid foods. Remember with our babies how we started adding cereal to their bottles? Then we started them on baby food. Then we bought the Stage 2 baby food that was a little chunkier. Then we started giving them small pieces of regular table food. Thirteen years later they are eating you out of house and home.
That’s how hungry we have to be for God. Right now I have a teenager’s appetite for the things of God. The more I read and study the more I want to read and study. Milk doesn’t satisfy me anymore. I have to have the meat. I don’t ever want to go back to being a once a week Christian. I am trying to live it every day and to grow up to be who God intends me to be. Will I always get it right? No. But my God allows for “do overs.” How great is that?
If we are going to get off the milk, then we need to make sure we are being fed some meat in our churches. God gave me a word for preachers and teachers, so listen up if that is you. He said that it is time for us to stop feeding the people milk and to start dishing out the meat. We have people who have been in church for years and years and we keep spoon feeding them the milk. It’s time for them to grow up and it’s time for us to give them the meat.
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Milk serves a good purpose. It will sustain you and you can exist on it. Do you want to just exist or do you want to thrive? If you knew you could fly, would you be content to walk? The mysteries of God await you and will be revealed to you, but you have to be willing to dig into the meat.
Weight loss fads and diets are always hot topics. For decades, Americans have been obsessed with being thin. Thin was fashionable. Thin was in. Every actress, model or singer had her own workout video. Because of the desire to be thin, people developed eating disorders, like bulimia and anorexia. When we were seniors in high school, my friend, Mary, and I used to diet all week. We wrote down everything we ate and how many calories it had. Then on the weekends, we would eat anything that we wanted, which usually meant we binged on junk food. I remember the two of us eating almost a whole package of Oreos in one sitting.
Isn’t it ironic that at a time when the media and society seemed to be throwing “thin” in our faces, we became the fattest nation on the planet? It’s not just about looking thin now. It’s about being healthier. We’ve finally realized that not everyone can look like Twiggy or Kate Moss. We need to watch our diets for our health more than for our looks. This has spawned a whole new line of weight loss and healthy diet fads.
One of the most popular diet guides out today is “Eat This Not That!” by David Zinczenko. You may have even seen him on a daytime talk show or news program. He shows that you can help control your weight by making smarter, more informed choices. For example, he will compare hamburgers at two different restaurants. He tells you which burger has fewer calories – and usually it is a significant difference. Because of him, I have had to rethink ordering a salad as my entrée. Some of these salads have so much in them that, with the dressing, they have more calories than a burger and fries.
I am not trying to sell Mr. Zinczenko’s book for him. I want to sell his principle: making smarter and better choices is better for you. How did we get so fat as a nation? Because we ate what we wanted when we wanted it without regard for the consequences. Now translate that into where we are in society. If only weight gain were our biggest problem! We’ve got drugs. We’ve got families where every kid has a different father. We’ve got divorce. We’ve got AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. We’ve got abortion. We’ve got addictions. We’ve got prime time television that is borderline porno. We’ve got outrageous personal and national debt. We’ve got the “f” word almost becoming everyday language.
Our nation, our people got in the shape that we are in because we started doing what we wanted when we wanted to do it without regard for the consequences. “If it feels good, do it” became the guiding philosophy. People took what our nation stood for and perverted it. We were set up to be a nation where everyone had equal rights and could believe and think as they wished. We became so tolerant that we tolerated anything and everything. And it is killing us -- and the way of life we were supposed to have. But whenever anyone has been willing to step up and draw that proverbial line in the sand and say, “that’s enough”, they have been dismissed as being intolerant or a hate monger. Just like we need to get our health and diets under control, we need to get the way we conduct our lives under control.
In Colossians 3, written by the Apostle Paul, God gives us His version of “Eat This Not That.” It’s more of a “Do This Not That.” This passage is speaking to the Christians --those who have said they have accepted Christ as their savior. But I think this could speak to anyone, Christian or not.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Most people believe that you get what you give. Call it karma. Call it fate. Call it “what goes around comes around.” I recognize it as the Biblical principal of sowing and reaping.If you doing the things mentioned here, such as: sleeping around with anyone and everyone; living selfishly; putting your own desires ahead of everyone else; letting money rule you; speaking hate and filth and just plain living ugly, then what is your life going to look like? What will you reap in life if you practice even one of these? When we get so self-absorbed with ourselves, we miss opportunities to love and grow and to flourish. Instead, we sink into the very filth that we created.
Don’t do that, do this.
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So instead of living a self-indulged, “if it feels good, do it” life, we are better off to be more humble and to put others first. We need to be kind and care for one another. We should be thankful for what we have instead of grumbling about what others have that we don’t. What’s in it for us if we do? Love. Peace of mind. Healthier bodies and minds. Less strife. Less stress. For those of us who believe – salvation and eternal life.Did I mention peace of mind?
Being “good” isn’t what gets us into heaven, but it sure makes the wait a lot more enjoyable.
The following is a poem that is often incorrectly attributed to Maya Angelou. The true version was written by Carol Wimmer.
The function of memory is not only to register past events, but to stimulate human conscience. -- Raphael Lemkin
Last month, we visited the HolocaustMuseum in Washington, DC. We didn’t have time to go through the main exhibit, which requires at least three hours -- if you are lucky enough to get a ticket (they’re free, but they only give out so many each day). I was also concerned that emotionally it might be too much for my daughter to take in (or me, for that matter). We opted to go through an exhibit called Daniel’s Story, which tells the story of the Holocaust in a way that children can understand, and it is told from a child’s perspective. The exhibit is aimed at elementary and middle school aged children.
One of the first things I noticed about the museum was how quiet it was. Like most of the other museums and tourist places we visited that day, the place was filled with families with small children. But this place was different. A reverent silence was overwhelmingly present. Even the children seemed to understand that this was not a place to be loud or be rambunctious. (It was a sharp contrast to the Smithsonian Air and SpaceMuseum that was bubbling with activity and sounds.) In a way, it was like a visit to a funeral home, in that it was quiet and reserved. We had come to pay our respects to the millions who lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Daniel’s Story is a simplified telling of the Holocaust, but it is a powerful and compelling one. At the end of the exhibit they have a “post office” where children can write Daniel a letter. It gives them an opportunity to express their emotions after going through the exhibit. After they write their letters, they drop them in a mail box. Some of the letters are then posted on bulletin boards in the room. Tears freely rolled down my face as I read the heartfelt messages from children expressing their sympathies to Daniel and his family.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group. The term was coined after the Holocaust by Raphael Lemkin. When we think of genocide, we think of Nazi Germany and their hatred for the Jews. We think of the concentration camps and the millions of Jews who died. Certainly for those who are my generation and younger, it is a part of history. We’ve seen it replayed in movies and documentaries, but we don’t have first-hand knowledge or memory of the events. It didn’t happen on our watch. Fortunately, history has preserved the facts and places like the HolocaustMuseum remind us of these horrible events. The hope is that by keeping it fresh in our memories, we will not let this happen ever again.
But genocide continues today. We visited an exhibit in the museum called “Genocide Emergency”. The tears that I had shed in the other exhibit had been tears of sadness and sympathy. These tears burned with horror and shock and shame. I was shocked to read and see pictures of the places all over the world (but mostly in Africa) where people were being killed, tortured, raped, starved, and displaced from their homes because they were from a certain ethnic group. Within the targeted groups, women have been especially brutalized. Has the world learned nothing from the Holocaust?
I know I had vaguely heard of some of these conflicts. They make the national news, but like most people, I guess I didn’t really pay much attention. It was happening on the other side of the world. I had heard some about Darfur, Sudan. Sadly, I know more about it from watching “ER”, because on the show, some of the doctors went there to help. I know many celebrities, like George Clooney, have spoken out to raise awareness and funds for the people. Genocide has devastated these areas at sometime in the last 20 years – that’s our generation, on our watch.
Rwanda (Central Africa)500,000+ killed
Sudan (Northern Africa)2 million killed; 4.9 million displaced
Democratic Republic of the Congo (Central Africa ) 5.4 million killed, most from preventable diseases; in 2006 there were 27,000 reported sexual assaults
Bosnia-Herzegovina (Southeastern Europe) 100,000 killed; city of Srebrenica massacre of 8,000; largest massacre in Europe’s history since the Holocaust
How many of you know about these conflicts? I had only a vague idea of what they were about, and I had never even heard of Burundi. It was an eye-opening experience. It is hard to wrap your mind around the millions of people who have been killed in the name of “ethnic cleansing.” I saw pictures of the refugee camps in Darfur, housing millions of people who had been kicked out of their homeland by a brutal military force. It made the Katrina tent cities look like a vacation resort.
The images stayed with me for days. I kept seeing the cramped, dirty apartment that Daniel’s family lived in before they were separated and taken to concentration camps. I remembered seeing where Daniel’s mother had sewn the Star of David on what few clothing items they had. They were required to wear it visibly at all times so everyone would know they were Jews and treat them accordingly (which was bad treatment, of course).I thought: What if it had been Christians instead of Jews? Would we have had to wear a cross sewn on all our garments? How many would have stayed true to Christ?
My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
The visit to the museum revealed the dark, ugly and evil side of mankind. Unfortunately there will always be those who love war and use violence to capture and maintain power or to fulfill a personal agenda. It is up to us to keep the light shining on these events. I thank God for the dedicated missionaries who go to these places and bring the good news of Jesus Christ, as well as food and medicine, to the people. I thank God for the people who are reporting these atrocities and I know that I am going to pay more attention to these news stories . . . and I am going to start praying for these people. I thank God for the people who are trying to help these survivors recover from the devastation. And I am thankful for places like the HolocaustMuseum that can educate us. I left there overwhelmed with emotion. I even felt a little helpless -- not knowing what could be done.
I also left there with the thought: What if this happens to me and to my family? What if what happened to the Jews happens to Christians? Many of you may have heard the following quote by Martin Niemoller.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
As Christians, we need to speak out for others, but we also need to speak out for ourselves. Our rights are slowly being stripped from us, ever so gradually over time. The government and anti-Christian factions are trying to undermine our faith by taking away our rights to pray and believe the way we do. Prayer is out of school. People have tried to get “In God we Trust” off our currency. The Ten Commandments have been removed from some government facilities. An attempt failed to have “under God” taken out of the Pledge of Allegiance.The president has stated that we are not a Christian nation. They want to stop preachers from speaking out against homosexuality, which we as Christians, believe is a sin. Opponents call it hate speech. What makes us different from others is that we hate the sin, but love the sinner. We don’t try to wipe out those who don’t believe the way we do.
1 Corinthians 15:2
By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
I believe there is a deliberate and systematic attempt to destroy the Christian faith. I even recognize who is behind it. The Enemy is using everyone and everything he can to bring us down. But, if we truly know God and know His word, then we truly have nothing to fear. Matthew says: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
1 Peter 4:7
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
We need to take a stand and fight for our God-given rights. We need to start paying more attention to what is going on in our nation and in the world. We need to be in prayer and we need to be about our Father’s business. This is our time . . . this is our watch.
If you would like more information about the HolocaustMuseum or genocide in current times, you can visit their web site at http://www.ushmm.org/.
Last spring, my friend Susan made me promise I would get on Facebook. When she first asked me to get an account, life was really hectic and I couldn’t imagine having the time to set it up and use it on a regular basis. Summer has brought with it a calmer schedule, so with the help of my daughter, I got myself a Facebook page.Actually, it was pretty easy and I am starting to get the hang of it.
I would like to say that I wasn’t trying to be unsociable when I was avoiding “fb”, as it is usually referred to online. But the truth is, that’s exactly what I was doing. That was a hard truth to admit to myself.
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Last week I wrote about my “moment of clarity.” One of the things the Lord showed me about myself was that I was hiding. Without going into detail, the last five years or so have been tough. I have struggled and I have hurt and I have withdrawn. I really don’t like to talk about my personal problems – I’m more of a listener. If I hadn’t had God in my life, I am not sure where I would be. When I didn’t feel like I could talk to anybody, I could talk to Him.
Now, there were friends in the last few years that I did share some of my feelings and problems with. But I still limited how much I shared. I am not sure why or what I was afraid of. Sometimes I think I dismissed my feelings because I compared myself with others and the problems they were having. I thought my problems weren’t as important. (Ever feel that way?) So the hurts and disappointments just got covered up and I focused on other areas of my life. But in the process, I realized I was shutting myself away from people I care about. There was a loss of intimacy in my friendships – those deep connections that bind us together.
A friend loves at all times,
When I look at the friends that God has placed in my life, I see how blessed I am. They are wonderful people and I love them so much. There are childhood friends, college friends, work friends, church friends, friends of friends (another fb term), and family friends. But of late I have cheated them and I have cheated myself out of fellowship with them. Some I have lost touch with, and I know that’s normal. Others I have kept in touch with, but we haven’t had any quality time together. Those I see regularly, I have still kept at arms length in terms of emotional connection. To use an old cliché: it’s not you, it’s me. And I am so sorry.
It’s time to come out of hiding. It’s time to put myself and my heart out there and realize that I might get hurt, but that’s okay. I am not sure where or how to start, and I know I won’t change overnight. This blog has been a great jumping off point. I have shared more of myself through writing these last few months. Last night on fb I reconnected with some friends I hadn’t talked to in years. This weekend I am having breakfast with my childhood friends that I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s a start.
Friendships are important. We are supposed to love one another, care for one another, pray for one another. We weren’t meant to be alone. God is with us, but He also gave us each other. We are to build each other up. We can’t make it through life alone. I can’t make it alone. I want and need my friends in my life.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
If you are one of my friends, thank you for hanging in there with me. I hope to be a better friend in the future. I never stopped loving you, but I guess I stopped showing you. In my favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz”, the wizard tells the Tin Man: “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” I do want your love, but I know I have to give in order to receive. And in order to receive, I have to be open. Love and forgiveness – they are the essential ingredients to our earthly and heavenly relationships!
I was hesitant about writing this particular article. It seemed too self-indulgent, and it was really hard to write about myself in such a personal way. But I can’t help but believe that there is a purpose in it. Maybe someone else has felt this way, too. I hope that this will help someone else come out of hiding and to reach out for their friends. They are too valuable to let slip away.
It came when I was sitting on the steps outside my brother’s home in Maryland. The rest of the family was inside and the street was nearly deserted. It was quiet, and I was left alone with my thoughts, which was a rare event. I didn’t have to be anywhere, clean anything, tend to a child or pet, answer a phone, do paperwork, study or write. I could just sit, take in a deep breath and truly relax in my body, mind and spirit. That’s a rare and priceless gift.
As I sat there, my mind began to wander. I thought about my life and the people who are in it. I thought about the things that I am doing in life, as far as home, work and church. I considered each carefully and prayerfully. In some areas, I felt a sense of strength and security – that I was on the right track. In others, I could see where changes need to be made, starting with changes in myself.
This moment of clarity felt good and I knew that I wanted and needed more time like this. That’s when I began to feel the Lord speaking to my spirit. He reminded me that I needed to have more quiet time for prayer and thinking. Jesus often took time to get away from everyone to pray. If He needed to do that, how much more do we need to?
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
In an earlier blog article, I wrote about the busyness of life and how we are always trying to beat the clock. It is difficult to find time to just sit, relax, contemplate, meditate, and pray. We are told in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still – you wouldn’t think that would be so hard, but it is. Be still – for how long? As long as it takes to put aside the thoughts and the cares of the world and turn to the thoughts of God and His kingdom, because that’s when revelation comes. That’s when refreshing comes. That’s when God can direct your path, answer your questions, or comfort your heart. He doesn’t want to compete with your job, television, the internet, sports or what other activities fill up your day. He wants time alone with you so that He can truly minister to you.
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
We all get that urge to “get away from it all.” We need to listen to it. In addition to that daily time alone, we regularly need to step out of our routine for a while. Most of us do that by going on vacation. A change of scenery and daily activity is good for you. It can give you that time to relax and reflect and get a new perspective on life. We can reconnect and bond with family and friends. We can be inspired and challenged to try new things.
Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
Even when we are doing the work of the church, we can get overwhelmed and feel overworked. When you feel that way, it should be a red flag that you haven’t been taking the time that you need to refresh and recharge your batteries. If I am feeling overwhelmed and overworked, then it is my fault. Perhaps I took on more work than I should have. Maybe I need to learn to say “no”. Maybe I didn’t even look to God to find out if I was supposed to be doing a certain work. Or, I may have been too proud to ask for help or I let pride convince me that no one else could do the job. Society teaches us to blame everyone else – look for a scapegoat. We need to look to ourselves and take responsibility for the choices we make.
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
Can you imagine spending a whole night praying? If we pray for more than five minutes, we feel like we’ve accomplished something. God wants more than our five-minute, microwave, wish list prayer. He wants you to take time for yourself and for Him. It’s a relationship, which means it is a two-way communication. Don’t do all the talking . . . leave some room for God to speak to you. Are you ready for a moment of clarity?
Happy Birthday to my Granny Smith, who turns 93 years old today. I know that she won’t read this, but I hope that you will remember her in your prayers today. Thanks!